Sunday, March 11, 2007

Messi Cleans Up

Barca's Messi-anic Miracle

As much as I've bitched about Comcast's crimes against humanity in terms of botched installations and billing incompetence, I have to admit I'm glad I upgraded to Digital Cable, if only for one reason. The Sports Package gives me Fox Soccer Channel and GOLTV, which means I got to watch yesterday's classic clash between Barcelona and their bitter rivals Real Madrid.

As Jack Bell wrote in The International Herald Tribune, "Thisonewastrulysuper. Barcelona and Real Madrid played one of the most exciting and enthralling games in the long and mythical history of the Spanish supercláscio at the Camp Nou, a roiling cauldron for 90 minutes of unrivaled Iberian excitement."

Big-spending Real Madrid and its Galactico superstars (whose ranks over the years have included Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, Zidane) have been a major disappointment over the years, and on this day the visiting 4th place White Angels trailed Spanish La Liga co-leaders Barcelona by 5 points. They wanted a win and - despite playing without an injured David Beckham (who strained knee ligaments last week and missed the chance to face Barcelona for the final time before he leaves for the Los Angeles Galaxy in August), Jose Antonio Reyes, Fabio Cannavaro and Roberto Carlos - led every step of the way thanks to Ruud van Nistelrooy's brace and looked likely to pull the upset at Camp Nou after defender Sergio Ramos' header put them up 3-2 in the 72nd minute of the second half.

But Barcelona - playing without suspended Ludovic Guily and Gianluca Zambrotta and then playing a man down when Oleguer Presas was sent off just before halftime for a clumsy challenge - had an answer in Lionel Messi. The tiny teenaged Argentine star (who bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Roman Polanksi) scored a hat trick, including a dramatic last-minute goal in injury time, to salvage a 3-3 draw with Barca's arch-rivals. It was a huge result for Barcelona, coming at the end of week in which both Barcelona and Real were ousted from the first round of the Champions League and averting a second defeat to Real Madrid (who spankedBarca earlier in the season 2-0 at home).

"This is always a very special game," Coach Frank Rijkaard of Barcelona said after the match. "We had a bit of luck. Certainly this is one of the most intense games in all of football. It's a derby, although the teams are not from the same city. It goes way back historically."

Watching Messi' brilliance in a game that was a testament to everything "The Beautiful Game" of soccer stands for made me think back to last June and Argentina's loss to Germany in the 2006 World Cup. What was Argentina's idiotic coach Jose Pekerman thinking when he left Messi on the bench in that overtime, penalty-kicks loss to the Germans? Messi showed that he has last-minute magic in his feet. One wonders how far Argentina would have gone in the World Cup if only their coach had believed in magic.

Watch the Last-Minute GOOOOOOOL!:

See All of Messi's GOOOOOOLS!:

See All 6 GOOOOOLS!:



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