Barcelona FC: Simply Irresistible
The lights were blazing, the crowd was a mass of red and blue, chanting in a fervor more religious than religion itself. The world had held its breath, all eyes were on the Camp Nou. And not a single pair of eyes, other than those of the Rossoneri fans, would have been sad after the 90 minutes had passed. And even they would acknowledge that they had been outplayed comprehensively.
In the build-up, Xavi, who had watched the La Liga El Classico at home, had mentioned the need to press quicker, shoot more, pass at lightening pace, and above all, have belief in themselves. The men in red and blue responded, it was a joy to watch. It was Barcelona in top gear after all.
The start was quick, it was obvious from the first whistle that the team had taken Xavi’s word to heart. And results started showing, Messi ended his ‘out of form’ rumors with a peach of goal – right into the corner and completely unstoppable. Time and again, Barcelona stole the ball from the Milanese, and once they did that, we saw what we love – a swarm of attackers all taking runs and there was hardly a misplaced pass. Iniesta was imperious; he made Boateng dance to his tune and especially early on, down the left wing, he showed more dribbling skills than Messi and Ronaldo put together. One thing that was funny though, despite the number of times Messi was brought down, he was pulled up to his feet by the tackler with a smile and an apology as if to say that the only way to stop him was to pull him down. No fewer than three players got cards fouling him.
Leading by example is one thing; what Xavi did was unbelievable. He ran around like a 19 year old, tackled better than the centre backs of Barca did all night, and misplaced all but two of his passes. The Milanese, for the better part of the game, were trapped in their own half. The one glorious chance they got was crashed on to the post by Niang. But not before Messi had shown a cunning finishing brain – while the first had been curled into the top corner, the second was almost a dummy. In a similar stance, he opened up his body as if to curl it again, Abbiati took the bait and was ready to leap, but the number 10 placed it into the bottom left corner. It went through the legs of Mexes and there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Barcelona defended awfully all through the night, every tackle made by Pique and Mascherano seemed to be a last ditch one, and Alves seemed to be more of a winger than a defender. The number of times Xavi lifted a diagonal out to Alves almost reminded me of Scholes and Beckham in their prime. Everything the Catalans did in the Colosseum of Catalunya delighted everyone who watched the match.
In an earlier article, I mentioned that the Blarguana did not have a plan B. Well, they quelled that notion of mine. Long balls were aplenty, crosses were thudded in all night, and some of the long-range shooting by Xavi and Iniesta was awesome. The third goal epitomized everything Barca did that night. Mascherano broke up play, passed to Iniesta, who touched it for Xavi, who put in an exquisite ball to Villa, who finished perfectly. His celebration after the finish showed how much the goal meant to his team. By now, it looked like the match was Men vs Boys and not Barca vs Milan. While others would have kept possession, Barca kept going forward to find the fourth goal, and find they did. After Alba had ran the length of the pitch, and finished with all the composure in the world, of course it had been Xavi’s ball that he put in the net.
The man of the match, undoubtedly, was Xavi. He dictated play, and was the father figure the team drew strength from. Messi was back to his best, and Iniesta was as sparkling as ever. The defence was in panic mode, but in the end, it did not matter.
What we learned from this match was that maybe Barcelona had a slight lull in form, but God (or a friendly referee) save the team who meets them in the quarter-finals. I have a feeling that the Cules’ love affair with Wembley is going to continue.