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28 May 2009

The Champions of Champions - FC Barcelona

Players from both sides won their fitness battles to make the starting line-ups: Andres Iniesta and Thierry Henry for Barcelona, and Rio Ferdinand for Manchester United.

Otherwise, Sylvinho played in defence for the Catalan giants, with Sergi Busquets also starting. United made one change from the semi-finals: Ryan Giggs in for the suspended Darren Fletcher, with Park Ji-Sung again involved.

First Half

Manchester United, playing in white, made a positive start, with Anderson winning a free kick from Toure Yaya. Cristiano Ronaldo's ensuing delivery swerved low into the body of Victor Valdes and bounced clear, and the onrushing Park might have finished were it not for a strong block by Gerard Pique.

After six minutes, Ronaldo picked up the ball in space, drove forward and let fly from 40-yards, hitting wide of Valdes' left-hand post. Less than two minutes later, in space on the left of the area, the Portuguese powerhouse was able to pluck the ball out of the air with his chest and slash a shot wide of the far post.

For all that, Barcelona opened the scoring before ten minutes were on the clock. Iniesta pulled the strings as the Blaugrana probed United for the first time, releasing a killer pass. Samuel Eto'o then evaded Nemanja Vidic with ease and poked under the body of Edwin van der Sar, before wheeling away to celebrate emotionally.

Still, the Barca rearguard continued to look a little nervy, and Ronaldo was able to test it again after being released by Ryan Giggs. However, Pique body-checked him 25-yards from goal and was shown the game's first first yellow card.

Lionel Messi had his first crack at the other end, after 19 minutes, but his swerving drive was just high and wide.

At the other end, it was clear that Ballon d'Or holder Ronaldo was trying to do it all himself in the final third. He squirmed away from Toure Yaya, but his shot trundled wide of the same post again.

From then on, the pattern of play many had expected from the start began to manifest itself: Barcelona keeping possession in spells and United working very hard to quash their many threats, whilst struggling to make headway.

Chances were limited. Xavi went close with a free kick attempt, but generally the United defence were doing just enough to repel the waves of pressure.

With the interval approaching, Messi did finally get his head down and pierce the opposition back-line, with Van der Sar spilling his eventual low cross.

Second Half

Sir Alex Ferguson had clearly noticed that Anderson had looked lost at times, not least in the build-up to the goal, thus he was hooked for Carlos Tevez.

The Red Devils started with energy, but the cooler heads of Barcelona fashioned an early opportunity. Iniesta picked out runner Henry from deep and, after cutting in from the left, the Frenchman's placed effort was blocked by Van der Sar.

Their hunger to win the 50-50 balls was evident, too, and soon Eto'o was clipping a ball to Messi at the far post. The Argentine was close to connecting, then appealed in vain for a penalty after feeling the presence of John O'Shea.

The pressure continued. Iniesta drove into the heart of United's defence and won a free kick just outside the area. Xavi stepped up to curl the free-kick round the wall, smacking the right-hand post.

United did stabilise eventually, and had a half-chance of their own. Wayne Rooney crossed from the right and Toure Yaya got just enough on the ball to take it away from Ronaldo and Tevez.

On the hour mark, Michael Carrick looked to play in Rooney again, but he overcooked his pass, much to the frustration of the burly forward.

Dimitar Berbatov came on for Park, and for a short spell United looked more purposeful. Just as they were building a head of steam, though, Barca hit them with a sucker punch.

Carles Puyol made a key interception on the half-way line, and back-pedalling United were never able to clear. Xavi then hung up a delicious cross for Messi, who headed back across goal from the left, leaving the 'keeper flailing as the ball nestled in the net.

Manchester United almost replied immediately. Tevez played across the face of goal from the right, only for Giggs to scuff an effort and Ronaldo to be blocked out by Valdes at the back post.

On-song Puyol rose to head powerfully into the arms of the 'keeper shortly after, but then United's frustration surfaced. Ronaldo's challenge on the aforementioned Barca captain and substitute Paul Scholes' late slide on Busquets were both met with yellow cards.

In the last ten minutes there were more near misses for the Spanish side; Iniesta and Puyol forced Van der Sar to think quickly in order to make two good stops.

Thus it finished, and Barcelona are the Champions League winners 2008-09.

Greg Ptolomey,

1 comment:

WMS_5875 said...

viva barca...
bilo nk main futsalnyo?
ujung mggu ni deh

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