Seeking out some atmosphere to go with an event of the magnitude of the Champions League final I am forsaking my trusty chair, easy access to coffee, and about half an hours extra sleep to head down to The Bard on Avon, Christchurch’s early morning football destination. And so Deadball is proud to bring you a live account of the final, just a bit later on ‘cos I have to transcribe it from my notebook.
The Champions League final is great but it does herald the end of the football season, it’s a pretty bleak three months once the NBA Finals are over, and does have a tendency to bring out the type of people who watch one game a year and so it is no surprise to arrive to a sea of ManU shirts already spilling out onto the outside tables. Where were all of you during the semi finals? Not wearing your shirts that’s for sure where Gunners bearers outnumbered you 10 to 1, that is until the goals went in and it turned out you’d come in plainclothes, way to stand up for what you believe in. It is a particularly bad year for this type of behaviour with two obvious teams who are also two of my most hated, slightly less on the Barca side (no more Deco, no more worlds most overrated player, they play amazing football, and it would be nice to see Henry win it).
0 mins: The place is absolutely packed, we can spot only three of the female variety out of a crowd of a hundred odd. So far friend of Deadball James is wearing the only Barcelona shirt, topped off with a Christchurch Girls High scarf for waving purposes.
And we’re underway after some truly strange pre game gold, green and red mermaid/pixies. Of the two teams the semi finals were definitely hardest on Barca with both first choice fullbacks suspended for the final, Dani Alves in particular has added such an extra dimension to their dynamic play that it may be hard for them to remember how to play without it. Stretches an already shaky defence especially having to pull defensive mid Yaya Toure back to cover Puyol’s switch to the left. Compared to this a missing Fletcher is insignificant.
1 min: Soft foul as Anderson goes down with minimal contact. Nice early rangefinder for Ronaldo and Valdez tries to catch it with his knee. Would be a close vote as to which keeper out of Cech and Victor V has faded faster and looked more incompetent this season.
8 mins: Blinding start by ManU, almost complete possession and some great movement. Seems Ronaldo is the striker in this formation with Rooney out on the left and the former has had a couple of decent strikes from around the edge of the box but pushing it wide each time.
9 mins: GOOOAAL!!! Eto’o gets the ball on the right of the box in first Barcelona foray into opposition half. Pulls left and it takes a good moment or two before anyone, players included, realises that it’s in. Place is suddenly very, very quiet.
Crowd note: We have a squat, bald, heavily accented Manc right behind us whose lyrical contribution is a barked “COME ON” usually just after someone in white has kicked it out. Speaking of the white uniforms James informs me that Sir Alex’s (SAF) response to looking like Real Madrid who recently got pasted 6-2 by the blaugrana was a pithy “we’re better than Madrid.”
16 mins: General disgust in the room as Ronaldo falls over. Disgust that anyone might tackle the overly-gelled one than the obvious dive. It is amazing to be in a room with so many people who actually cheer for this sort of stuff, guess that’s why ManU are the only team with a Deadball cuntiness scale.
25 mins: Sorry, was getting and consuming drinks. As if the defense wasn’t shaky enough already the South Korean marketing ploy know as Ji-Sung Park pulled off a high degree of difficulty flip off Victor V’s knee and so now we see Pique taking the goal kicks. Also the first really sustained period of Barcelona possession with appropriately intricate passing all ends up with Xavi putting one well over the top.
Tactical note: Before the game all the talk was about how Evra was going to control Messi. Well you could say it is not an issue because Guardiola has Eto’o out on the right instead with little Lionel tormenting Vidic in the middle. Henry yet to be sighted.
32 mins: Boring period of uninspired Manchester possession where they can barely pass the ball to one another, Giggs especially who looks terrible but at least is doing something unlike Anderson or Carrick. All comes to an end when Evra tamely passes the ball to Valdez.
36 mins: CR7 attempts to injure ref with his piercing eyes, so says Derek Rae. As much of a prat he is, he is really the only United player who seems even competent right now.
40 mins: Giggs caps a forgettable half by falling over upon receiving the ball just ouside the box killing his team’s best move for a while. Slightly better than the one where Evra, Rooney and Ronaldo got confused as to who was supposed to be playing on the left and who the middle that saw it go Christy, Wayne, oops no-one there cos that’s where I’m supposed to be – into touch.
44 mins: Messi ends half by slicing straight through about six men in white but big Ed just manages to tip the cross for Rio to clear.
Half Time: Unable to tolerate any more of the guy yelling in our ear every time ManU stuff up, therefore often, we are going to relocate to the three storey screen at the Grail. Surely we will see a few subs made by SAF as his policy of countering Xavi and Iniesta by flooding the midfield has been hampered by the fact that all but Ronaldo have been all but invisible except when they’re embarrassing themselves with poor play. And yes, just as we’re looking for seats there is Tevez, looking like a buff Anthony Keidis according to James, getting ready to enter the fray for Anderson.
I was going to count the number of times that super annoying Heineken ad was played during the coverage, but moving bars meant that that count is only one, great move all round. Speaking of horrible ESPN ads, they almost killed this game for me with the super repetitive promos the past two weeks. Seriously who puts this shit on, is it really effective to play pretty much the same spot three times in a row in the one ad break and then do the same the one after that and the one after that? I would volunteer to be their ad salesman just to get some normalcy and variety.
49 mins: We have an Henry sighting. He’s been back in vintage form this year and this is a classic Henry run down the left, cutback and almost snuck one inside the near post.
52 mins: Xavi hits the post with an amazing free kick from pretty much straight on. Starting to get the full court press going now from the only team that can really do it, amazing to watch.
60 mins: ManU coming back into it, still extremely lethargic especially Giggs who is terrible today. I really expected them to come out fizzing after a patented SAF half time boot throwing but really, they got nothing.
63 mins: Berbatov warming up. Probably what they need, an actual striker rather than a midfielder play acting one or a striker playing defensive midfielder (Tevez) or left back (Rooney).
66 mins: Now comes on for Park.
70 mins: GOOOAAL!!! For one of the first times in the game Puyol has pushed forward and steals in on a bad clearing pass. He links up with Xavi who places perfect cross for Messi on the left who heads back across Van der Sar, not offside. More Barca fans here so some actual cheering for his first goal against English opposition, he’ll be glad to get that monkey off his back.
71 mins: Valdez makes a great sace as Ronaldo nearly slots the sucker punch and there is even more holding of heads and spilling of drinks.
75 mins: Giggs finally off for some fresh (sic) legs in Scholes.
78 mins: Puyol is suddenly everywhere, after sparking the second he almost made it three with a powerful header straight at VdS that came after CR7 jumped at him with both feet from a long way out. Was very lucky to only clip him as it was a terrible lunge. Puyol must have said something mean about Chrissy’s tan as he’s banging into him at any chance now, maybe he just likes rubbing up to big hairy Catalans.
Big game next week; Costa Rica vs. USA World Cup qualifier. Wonder whether there’ll be a similar crowd here for that one?
80 mins: Scholes destroys Busquets with a customary unco-thug tackle. Whistles all around until ManU reluctantly put it out.
84 mins: Amazing passing as Barca thumb their noses at the World Club Champions while playing keep away for about three minutes until finally Van der Sar dives on the ball.
85 mins: The Carling Cup holders by contrast can barely string anything together before either over hitting a through ball or being offside. Where’s the desperation?
86 mins: The repeating EPL champions earn back to back corners the second of which Berbatov heads over with about his first touch 20mins after coming on. This is also probably their best chance of the half. Shot of SAF on the bench, knows it’s gone.
90+2 mins: Pep pulls Iniesta off for someone so that he can get his ovation. Nice.
90+3 mins: And it’s done, the confetti raining down shortly will be blue and maroon for the club’s third European Cup/UCL win. I don’t think there can be any question that the better team won. A near faultless performance where every pre-game argument against them was completely answered.
They have a bunch of those inflatable men with wavy arms in Barcelona colours at one end of the pitch, three white and one P.C. black one which is good to see. Ten years ago it was Manchester United winning the league, national cup, UCL, the first time an English club had managed this. After their win over Athletic Bilbao a fortnight ago, clinching the league, and now tonight, Barcelona have become the first Spanish side to do so.
Presentations, losers first, speaking of which the shakey-hands line up goes Uefa Pres. Platini, King Carlos of Spain, Prince William, someone then Silvio Burlosconi who looks like a dwarf. How can he have been around for so long, dated so many super models and never looked like a midget? Perfunctorily limp acknowledgement until Ronaldo comes up to him and Silvio pulls him forward to whisper sweet nothings, maybe “how much to come to AC Milan?”
Champions up, Messi gets a pat on the head by the King. Players form up behind cup which Puyol raises up and the confetti guns go off. Football knows how to do a trophy presentation.