May 17, 2006

Champions of Europe!: UEFA Champions League decided tonight. I'll avoid putting the result right in the post lest some Statesiders have intentions to watch the game on delay but just can't avoid wandering past Spofi.

posted by gspm to soccer at 05:16 PM - 45 comments

A bit disappointed with the call to red card Lehman. Would've preferred them to allow the continuation and the Barca goal on that play. Then we'd have enjoyed much more of the 11 v 11 play that was so tantalizing. But I'm no ref. Just a guy watching on TV.

posted by gspm at 05:18 PM on May 17, 2006

The ref was really, really bad. But Lehman grabbed E'too's ankle and took him down. Should have been continuation and goal or penalty and red card. Either way the better side won, without a doubt. It's nice to see attractive, attacking football get rewarded with the double (La Liga and Champions).

posted by sic at 05:26 PM on May 17, 2006

Thing is with criticizing the ref, is that it's clearly a red card offence and he would have been punished by UEFA if he had failed to enforce it. You could argue he should have allowed the goal and then given the card, but it was beyond doubt a red card offence. It's tough luck on Arsenal, but Lehman really let them down. It certainly wasn't a penalty as it was clearly outside the area. Either way, Arsenal did well to take the lead but were obviously too tired after seventy minutes to hang on without Barca scoring. Arsenal were perhaps unlucky not to get extra time, where it could have gone either way, but you can't take away from Belleti's goal.

posted by walrus at 05:36 PM on May 17, 2006

The foul was outside the box, so no penalty, but a clear red card. I too was disappointed he didn't play advantage. It would have been nice to see some more 11 on 11 with Arsenal attacking and Barca coming back on the break. And that foul that led to Arsenal's goal was a blatant dive - he didn't even get touched... fun game to watch as a neutral, though.

posted by sauril at 05:50 PM on May 17, 2006

Lehmann was definitely last man. Perhaps advantage and goal would have let him off. (Yes, I also would've preferred the 11 v 11 outcome.) But once the referee blew for the foul, there was no way back. Tough call and he made it. Eboue is a diver. Bad call. Worse defending. Good goal. Justice was done thanks in no small part to the super-subs Belletti and double-goalmaker Larsson. The first dummy-touch to Eto'o showed Larsson's vision, but Eto'o's finish was sublime. The replay showed he had to thread the needle with the near-post shot (vs the wider angle shot which Almunia was anticipating) and he pulled it off, after spending most of the match ploughing down the left wing. Then came Larsson's killer reverse pass taking out three Arsenal players (plus two more behind Bettelli), that Bettelli somehow managed to bounce between and off Almunia's despairing legs. A lucky strike, at the end, but well-deserved for the build-up and Bettelli's run. Splendid game, marred by one, maybe two, bad decisions but a fair result.

posted by worldcup2002 at 06:20 PM on May 17, 2006

Very enjoyable game, lots of drama, fair scoreline. Lehmann and Arsenal should have no complaints about the sending off and the ref obviously did them a favor by not allowing play to continue. I am interested to read about the riff between Henry and Wenger in the 2nd half.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 06:35 PM on May 17, 2006

Sending-off offences A player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offences: 1. is guilty of serious foul play 2. is guilty of violent conduct 3. spits at an opponent or any other person 4. denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area) 5. denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick 6. uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures 7. receives a second caution in the same match Lehmann was sent off for #5. There is no way on God's earth that it should have been a "penalty and red card." If only because the foul occured just outside the area in the referees opinion.. IMHO, the ref had two choices - either play advantage and allow the goal to stand and book Lehmann for the foul, or stop play and send Lehmann off for deliberately denying an obvious goalscoring oportunity and award a free-kick on the edge of the area. There's no way you can tell which is the "better" side when one team plays for 70 minutes with ten men. PS Eto'o was offside for his goal, the linesman just missed Larsson's touch.

posted by squealy at 06:37 PM on May 17, 2006

Eto'o was clearly played onside by the defender in the middle rather than the right back. Sublime lay off from Henrik though. One cannot help but wonder that if Henry hadn't been bitching to Arsene for the entire 2nd half, whether he would have scored when through on his own. One thing's for sure after the love-fest witnessed between him and Samuel after the game, whispered words to boot, Thierry boy is off to Barca next season. Hardened cynics might conclude that a high profile rift with one's manager and equal in stubborness might facilitate one's departure with the lame "I didn't have any other choice" excuse hanging tangibly in the autumn air left by one's marvelous golden wake.

posted by niall at 07:15 PM on May 17, 2006

From my barstool, the red card was a fair call. The ref would not have been wrong either way; I preferred the call as it was because it denied Barca a penalty. Overall, this game felt like the 2001 FA Cup final - Arsenal did enough to win for 80 mins, but couldn't hold on. I'm gutted, but still delirious that they got to the final in the first place.

posted by Toxteth O'Grady at 07:21 PM on May 17, 2006

I agree with several of those above -- if there was any doubt as to whether Henry will be gone next year and where he would be going, I would say it's gone now based on his conduct and body language during and after the match. And from what I saw, Larsson did play the ball through to Eto'o, if ever so slightly.

posted by holden at 07:39 PM on May 17, 2006

No penalty was denied by the refs call. Squealy got it right when he said the ref had two choices, to possibly yellow card Lehman and allow the goal or red card him and give the free kick. I'm not sure what exactly constitutes the ref going back and giving a yellow card after playing advantage. I know we see it when it is a particularly nasty foul (this may or may not be considered nasty). Most of the time, on the advantage call, the ref never says the first word to the player committing the foul so maybe Lehman didn't even deserve the yellow if the goal had been allowed (although I think he should have gotten the yellow and the goal be allowed). And you can only say Barca were the better side because of the man advantage. I'm not sure which Robert Pires would have been on the field today, but Arsenal certainly could have battled back from a one goal deficit with him on the field. Also Campbell, Cole, Eboue and Toure were probably exhausted by the end because of the man advantage. This probably played a huge part in both goals so maybe with an 11th man, the Gunner back four don't have to work as hard and don't allow those goals. Of course this is all conjecture. And where the hell was Ronaldinho for this match. His name was called very little to be European Player of the Year.

posted by Ricardo at 08:13 PM on May 17, 2006

The ESPN line -- play advantage, give the goal -- was just odd. Lehmann knew that he'd walk for that foul, and he walked. If anything, the ref could easily have played advantage and sent him off afterwards, because the challenge was the very definition of a 'professional foul': he got outside the box and rugby-tackled Eto'o. That said, the match was marred by atrocious refereeing outside of the sending-off decision.

posted by etagloh at 08:24 PM on May 17, 2006

I think terming it a rugby tackle is a bit harsh. At least at full speed he was trying to deny a chance honestly and was beat and his hand grabbed an ankle or somesuch. You can't say he was lunging for the body (at least how I remember it and not having had any benefit of the audio from the TV due to the excited patrons). And yeah, the reffing was rife with missed calls. Eboue's dive lead to a goal. Henry got booked when the replay showed a good tackle. You can't get them all right, but this is one of the biggest matches of the year.

posted by gspm at 10:04 PM on May 17, 2006

I was pretty darn amazed at how out of the match Ronaldinho was, and similar when Tommy Smythe said Larssen is back to Norway for next season. You can't tell me he wouldn't make some big team an excellent second half supersub and mentor for a very young starting striker. Well, I for one was happy to see the third goal and Arsenal's season go down in flames. They are very lucky that Tottenham couldn't manage a last day win, food poisoning or no.

posted by billsaysthis at 11:19 PM on May 17, 2006

At least at full speed he was trying to deny a chance honestly and was beat and his hand grabbed an ankle or somesuch. He made absolutely sure he was outside the box. And I'll clarify what I meant by 'rugby tackle': it was the classic desperation ankle tap, with absolutely no attempt to get the ball. As seen when the number 15 is racing towards the try line.

posted by etagloh at 12:05 AM on May 18, 2006

A player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offences: 6. uses offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures Really? If they applied the letter of that, every game I've ever seen would have ended up being abandoned for lack of players left on the pitch.

posted by JJ at 04:52 AM on May 18, 2006

Ronaldinho was "out of the match" because he was surrounded by 3 defenders pretty much every time he came near the ball. This worked for a while, but in the second half after the changes (Beletti and Larsson were excellent) Barca began to take advantage of the open spaces left by all of the defenders sticking to Ronaldinho. In essence he contributed by demanding the respect and attention of half the defense at all times. The few times he had the ball with space he was very dangerous. By the way, you guys are right, looking at the replay, E'too was out of the area, should have been continuation/goal/possible yellow card. But if that goal would have stood I think the final score would have been more like 4-1 or 4-0. All Barca needed was that first goal to open the floodgates. Still, Arsenal played a great game, it sure as hell didn't seem like they had only 10 men on the pitch (more like 12) for most of the game. Their goal was nice too, even if the foul that got them the free kick was a disgusting dive.

posted by sic at 07:01 AM on May 18, 2006

All Barca needed was that first goal to open the floodgates. What game were you watching? The one they put on my TV made it look like Arsenal were all over them until Lehman got sent off. I agree with you about Ronaldinho though - I thought he had a pretty good game by any standards (apart perhaps from the standards of a television commercial). The pass he put through to Eto'o before the latter was caught by Lehman was sublime, and as you say, he drew defenders to him, leaving the rest of his team room to move.

posted by JJ at 07:18 AM on May 18, 2006

I'm annoyed that Lehman got the red card, purely because Henry looked like he was going to have one of those games, where he just tears apart the opposition, the whole time looking like he's not really paying attention. Carlos Puyol is still buying that Henry fake now. (Although to be fair to the fluffy-head, he did get back to narrow Henry's space for the shot). I'll be very, very, very sad to see Henry leave England, if he goes - I'm never that interested in the Prem, (I'm an Ipswich fan), but when he's on, Henry makes any game watchable.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 08:07 AM on May 18, 2006

it was the classic desperation ankle tap Ah yes, I thought this was maybe what you meant. I was thinking a shoulder or grabbing the body would be more rugby-like.

posted by gspm at 08:14 AM on May 18, 2006

All Barca needed was that first goal to open the floodgates. Well, to be fair, the opening of those floodgates didn't seem to be accelerated by the man advatange and the second string keeper Arsenal had to rely on. Arsenal looked pretty strong in the first few minutes and if Barca couldn't do more than squeak out 2 goals in the last 15 minutes against a 10 man side I don't see it likely that they'd have scored 4 against the full strength Arsenal - a team that had only conceded 2 goals in their CL run, and even then it wasn't Lehman that had conceded either of those.

posted by gspm at 08:17 AM on May 18, 2006

For those watching on ESPN in the U.S., what was up with the Marcello Balboa sideline reporter (not sure if he was actually on the sidelines or somewhere else) gig? What a waste of air time. Must they try to ruin everything?

posted by holden at 09:17 AM on May 18, 2006

Horrible refereeing. The Red Card was correct, but how many times did they hack Henry? And the one big call that Arsenal got was from a dive (not that I cared at that point). I've been harsh on Sol Campbell all year, but he was huge yesterday. 10 men for 70 minutes against a side like Barca is simply too much to ask of them.

posted by trox at 09:30 AM on May 18, 2006

Balboa was in the booth, there was a fourth guy, with an Eastern European accent, whose name I can't recall, on the sidelines. Balboa was on because he's the lead analyst for the American World Cup coverage and I expect ABC wanted him in front of this audience; the surprise to me is that he wasn't on more of the CL matches.

posted by billsaysthis at 09:58 AM on May 18, 2006

holden, all of us at the pub were saying exactly the same thing. What a waste of time...

posted by sauril at 10:04 AM on May 18, 2006

What I meant to say was that psychologically, Barca needed a first goal to open the floodgates. If the first goal had been allowed Barca would have played much looser, and when they are loose they are the best team in Europe, perhaps in the whole world. The fact that their first goal was disallowed, and then Arsenal scored a nice goal of their own, made Barca get tight for 70 minutes. I mean think about it; instead of being up 1-0 they were down 0-1 and although they were playing against 10 men, those 10 men were Arsenal, a team that hadn't been scored against in how many matches? Arsenal was also playing in their comfort zone, defend and counterattack. Once E'too finally broke through Arsenal's defensive fortress, I was convinced that they would win the match and perhaps put three on the board. I'm not sure what you mean by "squeaked out" two goals, but the goals I saw were awesome, classic Barcelona goals: great passing and great finishing. One of the reasons I've loved watching Barca this year is because they always attack, even after going up 2-1 with 10 minutes left in the match they were still attacking the goal instead of defending and putting the game to sleep (which Arsenal did for most of the second half). As for Henry, he looked incredibly dangerous throughout the game, but he had two one-on-one chances against Valdes and he failed to score on either. Valdes was solid on both plays, but Henry, like E'too, gets paid to finish. If he scores like he's supposed to on either chance Arsenal is the European champion.

posted by sic at 10:46 AM on May 18, 2006

...what was up with the Marcello Balboa sideline reporter...? Balboa is absolute crap in the booth and I know I'll running for audio from the 'net come World Cup time. How many times can a guy be asked a question and he begins his response with "Without a doubt...", "No question about it....", "All you have to do is look..." He doesn't know WTF he's talking about AND he's condescending. That some combination there.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 11:25 AM on May 18, 2006

Balboa is absolute crap in the booth and I know I'll running for audio from the 'net come World Cup time. How many times can a guy be asked a question and he begins his response with "Without a doubt...", "No question about it....", "All you have to do is look..." He doesn't know WTF he's talking about AND he's condescending. That some combination there. The other thing that drove me crazy was that when Eboue was "fouled" on the play that resulted in the free kick from which Arsenal scored, Balboa actually supported him diving (after replays showed he clearly was not touched), on the basis that you have to do what you have to do to get scoring opportunities. But then later in the game he said that a player (perhaps Ronaldinho?) should be given a yellow card for diving. What a tool.

posted by holden at 11:58 AM on May 18, 2006

Referee regrets Lehmann red card.

posted by squealy at 01:43 PM on May 18, 2006

The real problem with Balboa is that he learned his broadcasting style from Stephen A. Smith. And the referee, mistake or not, should have just shut up about it afterward. As a ref, you have to stick to your guns, because no one else will have your back. Candidness is for your superiors, not the BBC.

posted by chicobangs at 02:24 PM on May 18, 2006

And there you have it The referee said he should have let the advantage continue and yellow card Lehman. And I like Balboa's analysis of the game typically, but I have to agree with Holden. Diving is a black spot on the game and should always be condemned. There aren't nearly enough yellow cards for diving in my opinion.

posted by Ricardo at 09:46 PM on May 18, 2006

Balboa actually supported him diving (after replays showed he clearly was not touched), on the basis that you have to do what you have to do to get scoring opportunities. He did qualify it by saying it was a defender's perspective: if you're in nosebleed territory up the pitch, and you can get away with it... well, he was being honest. Balboa is absolute crap in the booth and I know I'll running for audio from the 'net come World Cup time. This is semi-off-topic, but if this kind of commentary and match analysis is what ABC/ESPN is going to be offering viewers in a few weeks' time, eugh. It really doesn't help to sell the game. Tommy Smyth got on my nerves back in 1998, and he hasn't aged well. Use the ESPN Deportes team, ffs. Or sign up Graeme le Saux: he's not busy right now.

posted by etagloh at 01:47 AM on May 19, 2006

That's Tommy Smyth with a "Why?"

posted by owlhouse at 04:23 AM on May 19, 2006

etagloh - there's a very good reason Graeme the Socks isn't busy at the moment, namely, that he's dreadful. sic - again I find myself wondering what match you watched the other night. Firstly, to get my mandatory pedantry out of the way, it's Eto'o, not E'too (are you secretly David Pleat? Has anyone else noticed that he refuses to pronounce anyone's name right? "Rays there, with a lovely ball through to Cliché..."). the goals I saw were awesome The first one was offside and the second one was going out for a throw-in until it hit Almunia's arse and went in. even after going up 2-1 with 10 minutes left in the match they were still attacking the goal instead of defending and putting the game to sleep Arsenal kicked off after the second goal and immediately lost the ball. The only Arsenal player to touch the ball for the next eight minues was Toure, who got two touches, lost the ball, and then gave away a free kick on the edge of the box. In that time, Barca passed it around (quite beautifully and very impressively I thought) but didn't venture once into the final third of the pitch - even the free kick Toure gifted them was knocked back (after they wasted a few more seconds getting everyone lined up as though they were going to shoot). It was lovely football, but it wasn't attacking. In fact, the reason for its beauty was the discipline Barca displayed in not having a panic shot or a wild, speculative long ball. You yanks need to shape up - World Cup's comin' - so get out there in the second half and analyse that game. Refer to teams in the plural... stop referring to "plays" and "defense"... and if all else fails, below "The lad's done brilliant!" and look impressed. Now, huddle up.

posted by JJ at 04:45 AM on May 19, 2006

And in news that has made my week (and I'm not an Arsenal fan) Thierry Henry is about to announce he's going to sign a new four-year deal with the North London club. I just love to watch this man play football.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 07:48 AM on May 19, 2006

And that wind you feel is the collective sigh of relief breathed by Arsenal fans all over the world.

posted by trox at 09:08 AM on May 19, 2006

It's really good to know Henry is staying. There's still no player in football I enjoy watching more. Thanks to a north Londoner I knew in Houston, I have a strong dislike for the club but whenever Henry is out on the left with the ball at his feet, measuring up the defender, my mind is thinking, "Take him! Take him!!!"

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 11:16 AM on May 19, 2006

It's not just Arsenal fans trox. I'm absolutely delighted that Henry has decided to stay in the Premiership. He's a joy to watch and is massively respected by English football fans across the country. You only have to look at how many standing ovations he's had from the home fans in Arsenal away games since he raised doubts that he might stay.

posted by squealy at 11:51 AM on May 19, 2006

JJ, I just watched a replay of the match, and Barca was still going after another goal with 9 minutes left in the match, up 2-1. They've done it all season as well. They don't do anything else, no matter the score. I suspect that you haven't seen Barcelona play that much (outside of the Champions league matches); if you would have you would have had the same feeling as I did:"once the first goal goes in, the sharks go into a feeding frenzy. How long did it take them to score the second goal after finally being rewarded the first? But I don't want to take anything away from Arsenal, I've only seen their Champion's matches and I've been really impressed with their side. Btw, I'm relieved that Henry won't be coming to Barcelona, he's great, but if they keep (ahem) Eto'o, Ronaldinho and Messi together next season my money's on them repeating the doblete next year.

posted by sic at 12:05 PM on May 19, 2006

I'd just as soon have Henry out of the EPL but I really would have liked to see the combination of Eto'o, Ronaldinho and him, with Messi as the supersub for one season. Hard to imagine a more beautiful, powerful attack force. Then sell Eto'o for megaeuros and reinforce the backline.

posted by billsaysthis at 03:46 PM on May 19, 2006

It's interesting in theory, but something tells me that Messi is going to break out during the World Cup; he really looks like he could be a special player. If that happens, it would be tough to have him on the bench.

posted by sic at 04:35 PM on May 19, 2006

Here's an article that sums up my take on Henry and Wenger's complaints about the officiating.

posted by sic at 04:44 PM on May 19, 2006

There hasn't been much mention of him in this thread, so maybe it's best left to Henry to comment on the player that turned this game around.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 07:02 PM on May 19, 2006

So Sic, you recommend taking Messi for a World Cup fantasy team?

posted by billsaysthis at 11:55 PM on May 19, 2006

Messi? Hell yes. But there is a caveat, he's coming off a muscle injury in his thigh. I haven't read anywhere that he wouldn't come back 100% and at 100% he's like a teenage Maradona. Not exaggerating. I agree with Henry, Larsson was amazing. It's a crying shame that he's going back to Sweden next season. He made the decision before the winter break because he was frustrated due to lack of playing time. He couldn't break the starting team because of Messi and they were using Guily as the preferred back up. Right after he signed the contract to go back home there were a rash of injuries that led to him getting a ton of playing time and scoring a bunch of goals. I know he (and Barca) regrets his decision to leave now, because his styles is perfectly suited for Barca... He's a class act and a world class player.

posted by sic at 03:19 AM on May 20, 2006

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