LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona poses with the trophy after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Now I’ve witnessed my very first Champions League final and when people ask me if I remember when Messi scored his first goal in England or how I felt when Rooney equalized seven minutes after Pedro scored the perfect opener, I can honestly answer without any shame.
It was supposed to be a battle of epic proportions English Champs versus Spanish Champs.
This final did not disappoint unlike the other "first finals" I’ve seen. Here’s looking at you World Cup! It’s started at high speed it seemed with Manchester United being dominant, and applying heavy pressure early on, it had me quite worried, but that spell of dominance was short lived. I thought that Man United would put up more of a fight than they did. In fact, I had pre-match fears that the champions of England would apply more pressure to Barcelona and gain the upper hand. Surely if any team could it would be Manchester United. After the first ten minutes, however, FC Barcelona gained the upper hand (i.e. ball) and kept it.
Even after Rooney scored the equalizer, it still appeared as though Barca were in control. Maybe that’s just the optimist in me but I’ve never felt so confident at 1-1 after the opposition scored an equalizer before.
The half time statistics worried me. Man United had two attempts and one goal. That kind of efficiency in an opponent, even when your team keeps the ball for 60% of the match, can be dangerous. Barcelona only matched the number of goals with several more shots taken. In the end they only managed one shot on target and their solitary goal through Rooney, and only 3 attempts total.
Messi scored the second for Barca. It was clear that Manchester United’s plan to keep Messi quiet was not going to work. The tactical edge was for Barca. Messi was able to roam freely around the pitch creating space for his teammates. Messi was also left too much space for himself by Manchester United.
It took a strike from David Villa to seal the victory for Barcelona at 3-1. Villa hadn't been on the greatest scoring form leading up to the final and some had doubts as to whether or not Villa would make a positive impact in the match.
It doesn’t happen often but I think Sir Alex got it wrong here. United didn’t take care of Barca’s danger players nor did they supply chances to their strikers. One player that everyone was shocked to see not even earn a spot on the bench was Dimitar Berbatov, EPL joint top scorer. Maybe Barcelona were just too good on the night for Manchester United. but I was also surprised to see Nani benched for Valencia who had missed many games this season due to injury.
Barca is not a team easily beaten this is a team that has only lost 7 times in all competitions in the 2010-11 season, but so has Manchester United. Both came into this final looking to be double winners and although Man United started strongly and kept fighting throughout they weren’t a match for the Pep Guadiola’s men. They did get in a pretty sweet goal though; Rooney is good for that sort of thing.
It was a very interesting Champions League season for a first timer. Plenty of surprises Schalke 5-2 Inter, scandals Xabi and Ramos getting sent off ON PURPOSE, and controversy every match where an opponent of Barcelona got sent off. I can’t wait until next season!
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