Sunday, June 10, 2007

La Liga title race update

Barca 2-2 Espanyol

Zaragoza 2 -2 Real Madrid

Mallorca 0 - 0 Sevilla

Both Sevilla and Barca blew their chance, while Real march on. In Sevilla's case it was through little fault of their own, having lost crucial players to injury over the international break. In Barca's case...well, Xavi says it best in his post match interview:

"What happened today is basically the summary of the year," he said. "We have breathed life into them [Real Madrid], and we have give them the league...Madrid now have everything in their favour...We will hope that they slip up, but it has been ours to lose. If we do not win this, we will have lost it more than they will have won it."

No disrespect intended to Real, who have shown admirable spirit, mental strength, and in the case of Capello, great tactical insight in his often match-changing substitutions. I think he also deserves great credit for discipline he has finally installed in the Real squad, and I'd be very surprised if they move to sack him after this season.

(Edited to add: Ruud van Nistelrooy is, in my humble opinion, La Liga's Player of the Season, pending the last round of matches. Sid Lowe is spot on, as always.)

Having said all that, it really was Barca's to lose for long stretches of this season, and pending the last round, we have duly folded. No one to blame but ourselves.

In terms of this game in particular, Barca may have had more chances, but as I always say when big teams moan about this type of thing, we can only blame ourselves for failing to put those chances away. That late equalizer from Espanyol was probably only fair in light of the fact that, as much as I admire Leo Messi, the first goal was a blatant 'Hand of God' style handball.

(We really need to sort ourselves out defensively, having conceded far too many late equalizers this season, but that's another discussion which can wait until the end of the season.)

Lastly, great credit to all three teams who were playing the title chasers. Maybe there were secret payments involved as some insist, but as these teams will tell you, they had enough motivation of their own (okay, maybe not Mallorca) to be getting on with. Espanyol always want to beat Barca, and Zaragoza still needed to preserve their UEFA Cup spot. In any case, a great performance from especially Espanyol and Zaragoza, who've both had pretty good seasons. (I hope poor Pablo Aimar hasn't got yet another long-term injury on the cusp of a major international tournament.)

I feared getting my heart broken today. If Espanyol had beaten us at home, thus handing Real the title, I wouldn't be sitting here calmly, typing this post. Drawing is pretty much the same as losing in this instance, only delayed, but the visceral impact somehow isn't the same. And so it goes on for yet another week.

Final day. We can do all the crying and celebrating then.


Lynda said...

I really agree with the "no one to blame but ourselves" sentiment, not just in terms of the last couple of games but the entire season. No way should Barca have left it this late in the first place. Then I remember that they did have a lot of injuries this season, but they are one of the deepest teams around: surely they should have been able to overcome that.

linda said...

Lynda: I think the major injuries definitely affected us, but that's life and as you said, we should have prepared adequately for something like that with the kind of squad we have.

We still need to either sign a striker or keep Saviola, IMHO. What happens when Eto'o goes off to the African Cup of Nations again (assuming that Eto'o stays) next season?

Lynda said...

Yes, I agree about the striker situation. (I'm really sorry Gudjohnsen has struggled there so much. He seemed so enthusiastic about being at Barcelona but his inconsistency was maddening. Not least of all to himself, I'm sure.)

linda said...

Agreed about poor old Gudjohnsen. He's just not cut out to be center striker for Barca, or at least that's how it looks now. Can't fault the effort he puts in, and I really rather like him, but it's just not worked out. I still wince just thinking about those two golden chances he blew against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu.