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Sunday, May 29, 2011


So said the late, great, Sir Kenneth Wolstenholme back in 1970 just after Brazil's Carlos Alberto had scored the fourth and decisive goal in that year's World Cup Final against Italy. If he were alive today, he could have used the same sentence to describe Barcelona's performance against Manchester United in the European Cup/Champions League final at Wembley last evening.

Barcelona ran out 3:1 winners. It could have been 6, maybe 7. Yet Manchester United made the early running, only for Barcelona to take over the whole show for the remainder of the first half-an-hour or so until they finally scored with their second clear-cut chance of the first-half after Xavi's incisive pass found Pedro, who found himself clear in the United penalty-area and side-footed past a wrong-footed Edwin van der Sar, making his last appearance in the United goal. Pedro had narrowly missed the target a few minutes earlier, shinning the ball wide after a cross from the right.

That galvanised United, and Wayne Rooney delivered a world-class finish in the 34th minute after a fine pinball-style move originating from a badly-taken Barca throw-in, to cancel out Pedro's opener, scored some 7 minutes earlier.

Pedro was also involved in the move that, by rights, should have left Barcelona with a 3:1 advantage going into the break when he was part of a one-two with Messi that ended up with the Argentinian international just missing Pedro's pass into the six-yard box with only van der Sar to beat. Barcelona also should have had a penalty in the first-half, when the ball hit Patrice Evra's arm.

Barcelona went for the jugular straight from the restart, and were rewarded with a David Villa strike finding the back of the United net in the 54th minute. Just for a change, this was no "perfect goal" scored after a move involving the whole Barca side, a couple of ball-boys and the team physio. The goal came after Barcelona capitalised on a United defensive error; the ball was then played in to Lionel Messi, who had been mesmeric up until then, and he struck a low shot past van der Sar, which the 'keeper might have saved.

Meanwhile, some of the United players were getting rather obstreporous, with Valencia finally picking up a yellow card in the game on his seventh attempt. Wayne Rooney was indulging in a standard of arm-waving last seen on Ben Anderson's "Holidays in the Axis of Evil" series when he and the crew were in Pyongyang and they happened across a North Korean traffic policewoman.

United should have had a penalty when David Villa dragged his hand back and handled the ball.Ryan Giggs came on and started trying to outdo Rooney in the "give us a wave stakes". (Maybe he was just giving Imogen Thomas a wave. Let's face it, he idn't do much else during the time he was on the pitch.) Fergie was sitting fidgeting in his seat as his world started crashing in around him. Perhasps a double-dose of Juicy Fruit might have helped calm him down somewhat..

In between times, Barcelona had found the back of United's net for the third time, in the 79th minute, this time through David Villa, and it was almost a carbon-copy of Rooney's equaliser past Victor Valdes in the Barcelona goal, though this time it was Villa this time who delivered a right-footed shot which curled past the goalkeeper.

If Sir Kenneth were still with us and on commentating duty, he would doubtless have uttered another one of his famous one-liners, another one emanating from the 1970 World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy: "They're taking it in turns to give an exhibition." So good were Barcelona.

After a rash of substitutions right at the end, so ended the lesson with the impressive Hungarian referee finally putting the Sons of Satan out of misery with the final whistle at the end of three minutes of injury-time.

Lionel Messi was crowned Man of the Match, and rightly so, having scored a fine goal, and that in addition to tormenting the United defence from start to finish. With the more accurate passing, harder work-rate and a ratio of 17 goal attempts to 3, Barca were more than worthy winners.

Éric Abidal, recently back from a lay-off caused by the discovery and removal of a mailgnant tunour on his liver, was given the captain's armband shortly before the final whistle, and was the man who lifted the European Cup for Barcelona for the fourth time in their history.

A class move by a class team, which put the seal on a performance sublime enough to deserve the next four editions of the European Cup/Champions League all on its own, one to leave the average viewer mesmerised and hungry for more of the same. Who would bet aginst Barca retaining the title next year?

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