Saturday, January 29, 2005

FC Barcelona just beat up on Sevilla, both literally and figuratively, 0-4 in the Sánchez Pízjuan. Sevilla is already yelling "we wuz robbed" with some justification. Damn, this Barça team is good, though. It was a rough game on both sides. Sevilla is known as a team that deals in "leña", literally "wood"; that is, they habitually play more in the style of a bunch of lumberjacks than that of artistes du balon. This evening, when necessary, Mr. Carles Puyol and Mr. Rafa Márquez chopped some timber for our boys in blue, and it's one reason Barça won. Rikjaard made much of his name in Italy, remember, and his teams are going to have a solid defense. I was watching Barça's defense during the first half, and Sevilla was fired up and coming at them. It seemed like every single play, though, Puyol or Oleguer would be in position to do something. This is not a dumb team. Their defense works because the guys are where they're supposed to be and they can then take advantage when the play comes to their position.

Barça's defense had a little help from the ref. In the first half, Puyol took down a Sevilla player in the area and there was no call. Fair enough. That one was questionable. Then, defending on a Sevilla corner kick, Belletti quite obviously knocked the ball away with his hand, right up high in the air there in front of Jesus and his mom and everybody but the ref. That one was not questionable. That was a penalty. Meanwhile, Barcelona was making some plays, setting up passes, and they had a couple of chances at goal themselves.

Sevilla was looking a little burned out by the end of the first half, and when the teams came back on Rikjaard pulled Belletti out and put in Albertini, who showed every sign of being a professional football player, leaving Barça with a three-man defense of Puyol, Oleguer, and Sylvinho with Albertini playing in front of them. Albertini can deal out the leña pretty well, it appears. Looks like this more offensive positioning by the Barça worked because Ronaldinho slid a pass through the Sevilla defense in the 49th minute and Etoo charged past the goalie and skilfully tapped it in at like an eighty-degree angle. Right after that Sevilla's star forward, Baptista, defending against a Barcelona corner, headed it into his own net and it was all over, 0-2. That pretty much finished off the Sevilla players. Then Ronaldinho went up for a header with a Sevilla defender and they bumped heads; the Sevilla guy was knocked out and concussed and everyone was very relieved when he was able to look up, open his eyes, and move his head. That was it. A little later Ronaldinho chipped in a rebound off a Sevilla defender and it was 0-3, and late in the game Ronaldinho slid another long pass diagonally across the field and Giuly (the shortest player in the League at 1 meter 64, just under five foot six) drove it home for 0-4.

It was a convincing second half, it certainly was, and the first half wasn't too bad either. At the end of the first half the TV3 announcers were saying that a 0-0 tie would be an acceptable result, that taking a point home from a match with the team in fourth place is pretty good. Sevilla certainly collapsed quickly when Barcelona put the pressure on them, though, because those first three Barça goals happened in pretty quick succession. The funniest announcer on the TV3 broadcast is Sergi Albert, who is some kind of technical expert whose job it is to critique the referee's calls. Needless to say, if Albert himself were making the calls Barcelona would win every game 7-0 and the other team would have four guys get red-carded.

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