Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Barcelona met Mexican giants Chivas at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday and the result was a somewhat low key enjoyable 5-2 goalfest which Barca won comfortably. They got goals from new players (Alexander Hleb), old vets (Xavi), players slated for departure (Eto'o with 2), attacking players (Pedro) and defenders (Jose Caceres). Chivas ran out a first team that was shredded but their B team played respectably in the second half, especially Jesus Padilla who beat Carly Puyol like a rented mule in bagging a peach of a goal. There are plenty of recaps out there which will do a better job of telling you what happened, for instance here and here, so I won't waste your time with any of that. Instead here are a few observations from row 9 by the corner flag:
- Interesting choices up front to start. With no Messi new manager Pep Guardiola started with Pedro in the wide right position, Hleb through the middle as the target man and Theirry Henry wide left. It seemed to be a baffling decision to say the least; I don't know enough about Pedro to comment, but Hleb in the middle is a head scratcher as he's more of a hold up player than a finisher. Henry is wasted on the left. With little room to open up the jets and no good angle to shoot he was left to make a lot of feints, back pass and take the ball to the corner. He'll never be the same player in Spain as the defenses play further back than they do in England, but Barca would have gotten the same production out of any number of run of the mill left wingers out there.
- Dani Alves appears to have a lot less to do at Barca than he did at Sevilla. With Sevilla he had the run of the right wing and at due to Barca's 3 man midfield he's got a good deal of space to work with up to a point, but the presence of the third striker on the right limits his attacking options in the final third. A shame as when he's on the fly there's no more entertaining right back in the world. Second Sevilla signing Keita looks very strong in the central holding role. It's going to be a tough year for the Andalucians having lost that much talent.
- All of the stars of Spain's run to glory at Euro 2008 were there, which was a pleasant surprise. Xavi and Iniesta both played magnificently and showed how well suited their skills are to the slower pace of the Spanish game. Neither are flyers but are capable of keeping the ball until the killer pass materializes.
- Puyol's hair looks just as ridiculous in person as it does on TV. Combined with Rafa Marquez's samurai knot and Jose Caceres' greasy mane hanging to mid-back Barca could have Europe's silliest backline hair combination. Only Dani Alves sports a look your mother would approve of.
- Why are Barca selling Eto'o? He came in early in the second half and easily converted the two chances that came his way. Much of it had to do with great build up play, but he simply finishes everything. Nobody else on that team plays as a pure finisher as well as he does and the mark of a great goal scorer is scoring the ones he should score as well as the freak goals and feats of skill. They'd be fools to play Hleb ahead of him and I doubt they can win without him given the amount of talent Real has stockpiled.
- Chivas fans know how to have a good time. The crowd was roughly 2/3 for Chivas and their fans were remarkably good spirited compared to other matches I've attended. The Mexican wave made its rounds, the Chivas cheers were endless and people seemed to enjoy themselves without getting too worked up about the result. The only annoying aspects were the people surrounding me seeming much more interested in getting on TV than watching the match and the guy sitting behind me in the Mexico keeper shirt (clearly a Caucasian American) whose running string of inane and repetitive commentary in the first 20 minutes nearly caused my head to explode. And even he took it like a champ when I turned around and told him to shut the fuck up. He didn't pour his beer on me and the rest of the game was much more enjoyable. All in a good day's fun.
Posted by Bobbie BS at 11:33 AM