So, the expected happened. Barca became the UEFA Champions. As the season progressed this time, it was becoming more and more apparent that Barca were the team to beat this year. And coming into the finals, Barcelona were poised to lift the Champions Trophy. But, one team Arsenal was determined to make history and promised an entertaining match to the fans.
I spent the better part of the night waiting for the match to start. Dad started getting a bit restless seeing me awake beyond midnight. And the old taunt of never staying late to study surfaced. But, yesterday everything was taken into the stride. Even gave a brief introduction of the Champions League to him. Finally, he slept murmurring something about 22 players fighting for a ball and all. But, I digress..
Anyways, coming to the match, Arsenal were aggressive right from the beginning which was not quite surprising actually. In the pre-match analysis, the pundits were discussing about the fact that Barca might just be wary of the Arsenal strikers. And in the first few minutes, Arsenal showed us just exactly why. Lehmann was looking quite confident while thwarting the stray strikes by the Barca strikers on the goal. But, then Lehmann tripped Eto just outside the box. (Hope Lehmann doesn't show such stupidity during the World Cup now that he is the first-choice goalkeeper for Germany). The tripping saw Lehmann being sent off and Pires being replaced by Manuel Almuni which in a way was very sad. The sight of Lehmann being sent off and Pires being replaced secretly made an Arsenal-baiter like me also pray for an Arsenal victory.
A free kick which should not have been given gave Arsenal a opening in the game. Campbell's header put Arsenal in the lead and Arsenal went into the break with their heads high after being 1 up with a 10 man team.
A lot is being made of the refreeing and I don't think Arsenal fans should be complaining much. IMHO, the free kick was just not on. But, the simulation worked and Arsenal striked. All this talk of biasedness should be taken with a bag of salt.
After the break also, the ball possession was more with Barcelona. But, their normal incisiveness was missing primarily because Ronaldinho was playing far below at its best, to put it mildly. Ronaldinho missed around 3 free-kicks which is very much unlike him. Things were just drifting with Arsenal content to defend and players diving left and right. Even Henry wasn't entirely free of guilt as he also got involved in delaying of the game with the constant scuffles and dives.
But, then Larsson was introduced in the game and that just changed the entire match. A first feed to Eto, which seemed like marginally off-side equalized the scores and there and then, Arsenal left the game. Within some minutes, Larsson provided Beletti a scoring oppurtunity and that sealed the match. The remaining minutes were just a countdown to Barca lifting the trophy.
Overall, the match was good. Definitely tense but yes, if Arsenal had 11 players on the ground, I suspect Arsenal would have been crowned the champions. Simplay, the way they started was heartening. But, anyways looking at the whole tournament, Barca were the deserved winners.
Hopefully, Chelsea bring the Champions Trophy back to England. Here's Cheers to that!!!
[ Cross-Posted this at Futball Rockers. ]