Thursday, May 18, 2006

I'm With You, Deadspin: The Barcenal Post-Mortem

I have to start by giving much love to the guys over at Deadspin. Not only is it one of my favorite websites, but my mentioning on their site (in a classic bit of shameless passive-agressive whoring) that I had a blog about Barcelona-Arsenal drove over a hundred new viewers to my blog. Thanks for checking the page out, fellow Deadspinners. I am now their bitch, whether they like it or not.
The problem now, of course, is that someone other than my friends might be reading, so I may have to update this place a little more frequently. Drat.

Now, on to the game. I have to say, it was entertaining. It had many of the things you look for in a classic - redemption (the maligned Sol Campbell nodding home Arsenal's lone goal with a noggin that would make Barry Bonds jealous), controversy (Jens Lehman's sending off), and an unexpected hero (Barca's Juliano Belletti 5-holing Almunia for the decisive strike).

By the way, any non-soccer fans who think all players are either dwarfish waifs, or tall, lean dudes need to take a look at 3/4's of The Gunners backline yesterday. Eboue, Campbell, and Toure look like they could be swapped for Brooking, Hartwell, and Williams and fool many casual NFL fans (Ashley Cole, the 4th member, would naturally be a charge of covering the Tight End). They were physically, and tactically, massive for Arsenal's valiant effort.

That being said, I think most fans agree that it would have been more entertaining had referee Terje Hauge played advantage on Lehman's sending off. It would have put Barca up 1-0, and allowed us to see these two well-oiled machines going at each other at full strength. Hauge even somewhat regrets the decision. Somewhat.

I can't fault him completely, he had already blown his whistle when Lehman took out Eto'o (I always wanna write E'too), and had no choice to issue the red after that. I certainly can't blame him for Lehman's misguided challenge. After seeing that, I really wonder if Jurgan Klinsmann is rethinking his choice for starting keeper at the World Cup. Only Keeper To Ever Win The Golden Ball, or Only Guy Ever Sent Off In A Champions' League Final? Hmmmm...

The Ultimate Challenge was less than advertised as well. Neither Ronaldinho or Henry found the back of the net. Henry missed (or was stopped by a solid Victor Valdes) three golden chances, and Ronaldinho seemed miscast, and out fo sorts, by not being allowed to direct the attack centrally.
Still, both players had their flashes of brilliance - Henry's exquisite freekick finding Campbell's XXXL cranium for the opening salvo, and Ronaldinho with the pass that played Eto'o through before the Cameroonian was toppled by Lehman's ill-fated lunge. They were certainly factors, but were upstaged by other stories.

What's up with the sour grapes from TH14? I know the officiating was less than stellar, but I can't say it didn't go both ways. When you consider that Hauge took a goal away from Barca with his red card decision, and then bought Eboue's dive to set up Arsenal's lone tally, he essentially presided over a 2 goal swing for the North London side.

After this match, I do get the feeling that Henry will be plying his trade in The Nou Camp next year. Watching them celebrate in front of him, feeling like some of his younger, shakier teammates let him down, and being ignored by Arsene Wenger when pleading for attacking help does not add up to leading the team into Ashburton Grove next fall. Henry, though, still appears to be saying the right things to the Arsenal faithful.

(UPDATE: But What Do I Know?)

If you're looking for another take on the game, the newest member of my blog roll, Braves & Birds, has his review here. He's a Barca fan, by the way.

I know, it's hard to tell.


Jamie said...

Congrats on the readership, you'll be receiving hate mail before you know it!

Eric said...

One can only hope!

Enzo and Paige said...

check out our blog
Enzo posted some Jogo Bonito videos;) Oh and it was good seeing you the other night at Janipalooza!

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