Friday, April 22, 2011

Midweek Superlatives

By Bagga Wilks

Real Madrid vs Barcelona
There is a legendary Robert Nesta Marley song “Dem a Go Tired to See Mi Face” (They will be tired to see my face). Last week, Real Madrid and Barcelona played to a 1-1 draw, both goals were scored through penalty kicks, Messi for Barcelona and Ronaldo for Real Madrid. Last week’s game was spectacular and today’s (Wednesday 4/20/11) was incredibly enthralling and they are not done yet. They will meet twice in the semi-final of the Champions League to decide who will be in the final that will be played at Wembley. Schalke of Germany and Manchester United of England comprise the semi-finalist in the other bracket.

Playing in the Cup final on a neutral ground, it took more than 90 minutes of ball for the breakthrough goal. Di Maria made a superb cross in extra time and Ronaldo showed his greatness with a superior header that gave the goalkeeper no chance but to retrieve the ball from the back of the net.

Messi worked his magic and before the overtime, picked up a ball, left a heap of Real Madrid players in his wake, made a through ball to Pedro who put it in the back of the net but alas! Pedro was adjudged by a whistler to be offside.

A game of this intensity and magnitude triggered some rough tackles but the referee went to his yellow cards but no one was dismissed with a red until the last seconds of overtime when di Maria received his second yellow. We have seen in recent weeks bad officiating affecting the outcome of critical games.

Mourinho demonstrated in this Cup final why he is considered one of the better strategic coaches in the world of soccer. Statistics showed that Barcelona made almost 700 passes. Real Madrid made less than 200. But Mourinho packed the middle and despite all the wizardry from Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, Barcelona could not penetrate Real Madrid’s defensive shield.

It is heartening to see the rejuvenation of Adebayor’s career at Real Madrid. He came on after the 70th minute but made a difference in Real Madrid’s offensive play. Adebayor combined well with Ronaldo and that combination created scoring chances.

Adebayor is on loan from Manchester City. While at Arsenal, even though he was a leading goal-scorer, he became expendable as Wenger opted for the seemingly hopeless Nicklas Bendtner. At Manchester City, Mancini kept him on the bench. Mourinho has rescued the Togo international and there should be no reason why he will not have a few productive years at Real Madrid partnering with Ronaldo.

Kaka, a former FIFA Player of the Year and the man Dunga built his World Cup 2010 team around, has become a bench warmer in Mourinho’s camp. It would be in Kaka’s interest to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season and go elsewhere where his game can return to previously established heights. If Kaka can remain uninjured, there is no reason why he cannot re-discover the form he manifested while at A.C. Milan.

The two remaining games between Real Madrid and Barcelona will produce more spectacular football. It is not just Messi and Ronaldo as they are surrounded by other exquisite players. The Brazilian, Marcelo, playing at left full back for Real Madrid has played like a man possessed on both sides of the ball. Di Maria has been outstanding and Sergio Ramos has been superlative in defense. For Barcelona Xavi and Iniesta are two of the better mid-field generals in the world.

Barcelona in the two Champion League games will be seeking revenge. If the past is prologue, their pending match-ups should be memorable.

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