Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Phantom Strikers - update
And weren't there some parallels. This time, Samuel Eto'o was at the point of the attack, but in greatly diminished form, one might say. On either side of him, Lionel Messi was running at the defence with great energy and effectiveness, and Andres Iniesta was playing his typically thoughful, clever game on the other wing. And yet Barca had nothing in the centre.
Surely Rijkaard must have thought back for a moment to last year's Round of 16 second leg at Anfield, when Eidur Gudjohnsen arrived very late in the piece, and scored Barca's only goal of the tie in accomplished fashion?
In the studio at half-time this morning, Tony Palumbo very justly observed that Gudjohnsen had to come into the picture at some point. It was the obvious move; a second striker with perhaps not the sublime skills of a Messi or Ronaldinho, but a genuine eye for goal and an acute positional sense.
And Gudjohnsen finally did arrive...in, erm, the 88th minute.
Even in the brief period he was on, it was clear why the Icelander had been so badly missed. One minute before the end of normal time, Bojan Krkic makes a run into the box in the inside-right channel; he tries to wriggle past his man, rather than cutting the ball back to Gudjohnsen, who has positioned himself bang in front of goal, ten yards out, completely unmarked.
Then, a minute later, Carles Puyol sends a dangerous ball across the goalmouth. Wes Brown puts in a desperate clearance, but had the ball evaded Brown, guess who was there, beautifully placed, ready to tap the ball home? Gudjohnsen again.
Had he been given half an hour on the field rather than a couple of minutes plus injury time, he would surely have been at short odds to find the net, given Barca's continued territorial dominance and penetration on the flanks.
All that aside, congratulations to Manchester United for making their first Champions League final since 1999, and to Paul Scholes - probably United's best player in the first leg - for scoring the scorching goal that got them there. And great credit is due to Park Ji-Sung, who was magnificent for United this morning in an otherwise fairly mediocre team performance.
They weren't particularly happy about the first leg, and this second was a bit of a shocker too...
was the lateness of his arrival due to barcelona`s love of the 4-3-3 formation, with 2 wingers and 1 striker?
what did his introduction do to their shape?
was the lateness of his arrival due to barcelona`s love of the 4-3-3 formation, with 2 wingers and 1 striker?...
I suspect so. Either that or Rijkaard just doesn't particularly rate him.
the idea at the break was that iniesta could drop into the holding role for toure (rather unneeded i thought), henry on the left and see how he combines with eto'o and messi...if it doesnt look effective after 10, its time for bojan, and then gudjohnsen...
typically, frank reacted far too late, and kept a disfunctional front third together for far too long... poor tactician.
It was a one-man attack...messi was the only one playing, but he didnt have a pal to play with...
Eto'o has been so off his game since coming back from long term injury, and was clearly off his game...agree, despite not being great of late, Gudjohnsen may well have made an impact with more time, but Rijkaard is so damn predictable...he has to go.
Having said all that, Manu were happy to pretty much sit deep and counter after their early smash and grab, and i thought the two central defenders were excellent, esp Wes Brown who had the tough gig of keeping pace with Messi (which he did manfully). Hargreaves wasnt far behind. Van der Sar on the other hand looked a calamity waiting to happen, and still barca didnt really test him.