Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football

We are pleased to share last week’s Champions League game from AJ Nelson who attended the match live at the Camp Nou.  You can find her on twitter @FootieObsessed.  Enjoy!

Forty minutes before the match started the whistles began at the Camp Nou as FC Viktoria Plzen took the pitch.  According to the Barcelona FC website, Barcelona has never won the third or fourth group stage games in the Champions League.  That statistic is difficult to believe and one Barcelona would be looking to change as they took the pitch.  To hopefully confirm three points, Barcelona fielded a Champions League side which included Lionel Messi, Dani Alves, Andres Iniesta and David Villa.  For Plzen, a force to be reckoned with Czech Republic, they were a “David” of unknowns facing “Goliath”.

The Camp Nou was crowded, but not packed, as the Champions League anthem rang out across the pitch.  One almost had to wonder how many Barcelona fans were in attendance as you could clearly pick out the Plzen fans cheering, along with nearly every language in the world.  However, in under a minute, it was clear that the Barca fans were out in force as a chance at goal caused the crowd to gasp and the faithful to cheer in appreciation.  A minute later there would be yet another opportunity which again would miss the mark.  At the ten minute mark, however, the Plzen defenders fell for Messi’s moves and he easily slotted the ball to Iniesta for Barcelona’s first score.  The fans in attendance were all smiles expecting to see Barcelona handily defeat this unknown squad.

As the half progressed, however, the Barcelona fans would become uneasy.  Barcelona would have the majority of possession and the majority of chances, but they would find themselves frustrated over and over again by the Plzen defense.  Two tackles in the box, scant minutes apart, neither of which were called fouls by the referee, would upset the fans even more and the whistles would begin again, this time in anger towards the referee.  A Messi shot that hit the post would end the half and the Plzen fans were the ones now smiling.  They had zero chances on goal compared to Barcelona’s twelve, but they were playing the Champions at the Camp Nou and were still in the game.

It was evident that Barcelona was confident in their abilities and Plzen knew they had to keep their defense tight.  Rarely was there more than one offensive player pressing in to the Barcelona half.  In fact, rarely was there a Barcelona player other than Victor Valdes in Barcelona’s half.  Plzen knew that the only way to keep things close was to “park the bus” in front of goal.  Typically the moment a Barcelona player would enter the box, they would be surrounded by at least three or four Plzen players.  As time wore on, Barcelona’s chances would continue, but Plzen also started to take chances.  Plzen was sending more players forward and were getting additional chances.  The concern for the Barcelona fans was significant.  They have a challenging schedule coming up and dropping points was not an option.

In the 83rd minute, Plzen would finally take their chance.  It was clear the only way they could tie the game would be to send players forward and try to catch Barcelona’s defense off guard.  Their attempt would fail as they lost the ball with too many men forward and paid the price as David Villa found the back of the net.

As time ended, Barcelona would find themselves with the three points, but with lingering questions.  With injuries and difficult games upcoming (including against an improved Sevilla side on Saturday), Barcelona can be pleased with the points tonight, but may be concerned going forward.  Then again, it is Barcelona and there is a reason they are the Champions.  Like tonight, even with teams throwing every defensive player in their way, they still find a way too win and make the faithful smile.

Elisa On October - 22 - 2011

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