United given taste of Barcelona’s humble Paella
Report by Gareth Freeman
Champions League Final: Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
Barcelona were supposed to be in the midst of a defensive crisis, their players hadn’t all played together since they sealed the Spanish title, there were question marks over the fitness of Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta and it was supposed to be United’s night.
Everything seemed to be going to plan in the early stages of the game. With barely two minutes on the clock Cristiano Ronaldo unleashed a powerful free-kick towards the Barca goal which keeper Victor Valdes could only push out into the crowd of players. It looked as if Park Ji Sung was going to open the scoring in the early stages but former United defender Gerard Pique was on hand to make an excellent block and deny the Korean a goal.
Ronaldo had another effort from a free-kick that went just wide before unleashing a long range effort and United had Barca rocking. However, with ten minutes on the clock Barca scored from their first attack as Samuel Eto’o skipped past Nemanja Vidic and fired a low toe-poke past Edwin Van der Sar.
As soon as Barca scored the whole complexion of the game changed as United were left chasing shadows. The absence of Darren Fletcher was plain too see as Fergie’s men offered very little, while Barca kept the ball comfortably thanks largely to the ever impressive duo of Iniesta and Xavi.
Carlos Tevez was introduced at half-time with Anderson, who had a very poor game, making way for the Argentine. Tevez showed his usual desire and work rate but could make no real contribution as Barca had United on the ropes. Xavi nearly doubled the Catalan side’s lead after 51 minutes with a clever free-kick but his effort came back off the upright.
Barca effectively killed the game off with 20 minutes to go when Lionel Messi doubled their advantage. The United defence switched off as Xavi chipped a cross into the penalty area and Messi rose unopposed to score his first goal against English opposition. It was a fantastic goal for the Spanish giants, Xavi’s initial cross was inch perfect and Messi rose and just allowed the ball to bounce off his head into the net way out of Van der Sar’s reach.
Moments earlier Dimitar Berbatov had been introduced by Ferguson and Tevez, Ronaldo, Rooney and Berbatov were all on the pitch at the same time. With the talented foursome on the pitch it would seem a fairly safe football bet that United would find the goal but chances were few and far between as Barca dominated possession. With just minutes remaining Berbatov connected with a corner kick but despite being unmarked he could only send his attempt way over the Barca crossbar.
Alex Ferguson gave an honest assessment of how his team had performed after the game, he pulled no punches and admitted Barca were the better side. He said: “We has some good half-chances in the second-half, and we perhaps should have done better – but in fairness we were beaten by a better team.
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Barcelona: Valdes, Puyol, Toure Yaya, Pique, Sylvinho, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Pedrito 90), Messi, Eto’o, Henry (Keita 72).
Subs Not Used: Pinto, Caceres, Muniesa, Gudjohnsen, Bojan.
Goals: Eto’o 10, Messi 70.
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Anderson (Tevez 46), Carrick, Giggs (Scholes 75), Park (Berbatov 66), Ronaldo, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Rafael Da Silva, Evans, Nani.
Booked: Ronaldo, Scholes, Vidic.
Ref: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).
Man of the match: Andres Iniesta
Many people would have gone for Lionel Messi, currently the betting favourite for the ballon d’Or, as man of the match after his goal but for me Iniesta was the star man. Before the game Ferguson said the Spanish midfielder could put opponents “on a carousel” with his passing and that is exactly what happened. His overall display was magnificent and the only thing he was missing was a goal.