I went to Studio 35 with a little trepidation. I really liked the atmosphere at the departed Tommy Keegan’s and Fado’s for previous finals. Would a theatre be able to match the atmosphere of a soccer bar, in a word, no, but that would be missing the point. About 30 people, mostly Barca fans, showed up for a gripping game. The game looked beautiful in HD on the giant theatre screen and the beer was plentiful; a winning combination. As for the game, it lived up to the billing. It may have not been a nailbiting contest, but it was a showcase for an excellent team.
For the first ten minutes, Manchester United ran Barca all over the pitch, nearly going up a goal. However, it was Barcelona that would strike first. Eto’o took the ball on the right, dodged Vidic ,and put it past Van Der Sar for the 1-0 lead and the early stories of an overmatched Barca went out the window. The midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta ran circles around Anderson and Giggs. And in the battle of the supertalented superstars, Messi was unstoppable. It did not matter that Barca’s backline was shaky, Manchester United never had the ball long enough to test them.
I have seen the descriptions of how Barca players flowed with the ball and it appeared it was tied to their shoes with string. I believe it now. No matter how difficult and hard the pass was, it landed with the softest of touches. The soft touch passes, the seeing eye passes. It was a joy to see. United had no counter.
It was the same story to begin the second half, even the introduction of the high energy Tevez for the overmatched Anderson could not staunch the waves of Barcelona attacks. They had several chances to go to 2-0. United was bent nearly to the breaking point. It was if Barca has spent their best shot as they would show the first signs of struggle since the opening minutes.
Manchester United would spend the next 15 minutes probing and pressing Barca. United would have the possession, but would not be able to make Barca pay. Shots and crosses would be blocked and the Barca keeper Valdez would clean up what was left. Man Utd had to hope that the equalizing goal was coming, but it would be Barca to hit on the counter. Xavi’s cross found Messi’s head to make it 2-0 with a mere 20 minutes to play.
At 2-0, it was all over. Manchester United looked spent as Barca was able to move at will. So why was an undermanned Barca team able to look so comfortable against the world beaters of Manchester. It helps when you have the best midfield in the world. Xavi and Iniesta proved their worth as they sliced and diced the United defense. It doesn’t hurt that Messi, Eto’o, and Henry are the forward line. Congratulations to the Champions, F.C. Barcalona.