Monday, November 29, 2010

An unforgettable game!

If you are a soccer fan--but especially if you aren't--do yourself a favor and watch the Barcelona-Madrid game from earlier today. I just finished watching it. It was outrageous. Don't just watch the highlights! You'll miss the best parts.

Simply put, Barca played soccer at its awe-inspiring best. In the beautiful game, a scoreline isn't always indicative of how the match played out on the field. But 5-0 is a perfect reflection of Barca's dominance--maybe even flattering to Madrid. Barca have ripped teams to shreds before. But to do it with such conviction, such assurance, and such swagger, against one of the best teams in the world! Remarkable. Madrid, after all, had not lost a game all season. Rarely do you see a team put 20 consecutive passes together in a game. Barca did that at least half a dozen times, including in the run-up to the second goal. And all the while they were enjoying themselves, expressing themselves, and putting on a show for the Camp Nou fans, who ate it right up. It wasn't just the sheer number of passes or quantity of possession that did it; it was all the heel flicks, one-touch passes, and nutmegs that Barca inflicted on hapless Madrid defenders. The crowd was already ole-ing passes within the opening 20 minutes. And I haven't even said anything about the goals.

Madrid's midfielders, supposedly among the best in the world, looked like they were from a different planet than Barca's. Xavi and Iniesta were turning past and playing around Madrid's midfield five with confidence and consistency. And Xavi, who gave the ball away twice in the entire match, completed 110 passes, half as many as the entire Madrid team. All this despite being substituted 5 minutes from the end! Barca on the whole completed over 600 passes, a number that would have been higher but for Madrid's consistent fouling (they racked up nine cards, but I couldn't find a fouls stat...probably upwards of 20).

Perhaps for the neutral, Madrid's embarrassment isn't be so deliciously satisfying. But for me, it is well worth relishing. World cup winners like Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, and Casillas, promising youngsters like Ozil and Khedira, and the world's former best, Ronaldo, all looked clueless on the field. Madrid may be a talented group of players, but you would have to be crazy to think they are anywhere near as a good a team. Mourinho has tried to save face for them, claiming that the match wasn't an embarrassment. But if he doesn't consider that an embarrassment, then he obviously doesn't think much of his team.

Madrid players, and fans, will likely moan about the offside calls (Casillas did plenty of that during the match). The third goal was marginally offside. The others were not. And of course, assistant referees botch offside calls regularly; we're just used to them being botched in favor of the defenders. It's a relief to see them giving the advantage in marginal calls to the attacking team; and I'll always say that, no matter which team benefits!

On that note, it's become increasingly clear to me that the referees in Spain are a lot better at calling offsides than anywhere else in the world. I could tell from early in the game, from Messi's run in about the 5th or 6th minute I think, that that assistant referee knew what he was doing. Four of Barca's five goals could have easily been disallowed for offside, and hardly anyone would have raised a finger. In fact, goals like these are disallowed all the time, but because the whistle usually goes before the ball goes in, people don't notice. So a gracious hat tip to the assistant referees--well done!


  1. That statistic about Xavi is simply unimaginable -- 110 passes???!! on his own?! it was remarkable all the way through -- and I can't get over the fact that the game was played in the pouring rain!! to be that precise with the passes and the runs, against a team that had not lost all year and had given up a total of 7 goals ALL SEASON up to this point, is beyond belief. This goes on the short list of greatest games ever for sure

  2. Wow, could have done without the petulant shoving there. Stay classy, Real Madrid! (yeah, I only watched the highlights... I'm sorry!!)