The semifinal game played today at the Allianz Arena will mark the end of the Golden Age of FC Barcelona. They were threshed 4-0 by a Bayern team that played with hunger, intensity, intelligence, and that deserved every single one of the four goals they scored. And there could have been a couple more.
The six-year cycle of excellence for this group of Barcelona players, at club and at national teams, finally showed its physical and emotional toll. Barca looked tired, sloppy, devoid of ideas, and did not really manage to threaten Neuer. Barca showed loyalty to their tiki-taka and to each other to a fault in playing an injured Messi. He had no business being on the field beyond the 60th minute. Clearly out of sorts, he tried but could not weigh in on proceedings. Only 25, it is a miracle this is his first major injury, given his work load. Still it was sad to see him without touch or pace because of his injury. Don’t know why Villa only came in the 82nd minute, or why Alexis started at all.
Bayern were on top from the handshake. They towered over the Catalans, with the exception of Busquets, Piqué, and Valdez. The physicality and athleticism played a role in deciding this match. Two of Bayern’s goals came from corners that Barca could not defend. In both instances Dante climbed over Alves with ease to head balls back into the box for Gomez and Muller to score. That height difference is not about to change by the return game.
It looks unlikely that Barca will come back from a 4 goal deficit. And just as well. Those boys deserve a rest. Well done Bayern.
Luis Suarez’s controversial hunger for the game was in full display today against Chelsea at Anfield. Though Suarez assisted on a beautiful goal and scored one of his own to tie the score in the last play of the game, what people around the world will forever remember is the sight of Suarez grabbing Ivanovic’s right arm, with both hands for a better grip, and biting his bicep. Not only did cameras capture the bite from at least two angles, but they also captured Ivanovic’s instinctive reaction to protect his flesh. The poor man even crossed himself — lest Suarez be a vampire?
Why? How could he? What was he thinking?
Suarez is a biter. Why this tendency was not nipped in the bud in infancy is a question best addressed to his parents. By way of explanation, one can say that against Chelsea Suarez was frustrated with his game. He had missed on a couple of chances to score in the first half, and it was Sturridge, not him, who scored for Liverpool to tie the game, albeit thanks to a lovely pass from Suarez. And just prior to the bite incident, Suarez had committed a silly penalty that allowed Chelsea to take the lead in the score. Plus Ivanovic was marking him closely, giving Suarez little room to make his speed and skill count. Suarez bit Ivanovic out of frustration and spite, acting with utter disregard for the myriad of video cameras beaming the game to the civilized world. Suarez may be a simpleton but he is not an idiot: he’s proven in several occasions that when under stress he will resort to bizarre behavior:
• during a WC qualifying match a week ago, Suarez surreptitiously punched a Chilean defender. The act was captured on video but it was not seen by the referee.
• last season, playing against Man U at Anfield, Suarez called Evra “Negrito.” Evra complained to the referee who reported the incident. Suarez was banned for 8 games and fined by the FA for racist behavior.
• Playing for Ajax, he bit a PSV player. As a result, Suarez received a 7-game ban.
His desire to win is legendary, and clearly it drives him to behavior well beyond civilized norm. Is his concentration on the pitch such that he tunes out everything? Perhaps. But is he so shameless that he simply does not care for the consequences of his appalling actions? Short of having Suarez play with a muzzle on, Liverpool will be better off selling him during the summer break, and investing on a player who will not bring the game, or the club into disrepute.
One more comment on Suarez and the bite. Football clubs should provide players with cultural education, especially foreign ones. Not too long ago, I came across an article that talked about the culture shock that Brazilian players go through when they arrive in Europe. In an extreme example of being penny wise but pound/dollar foolish, the article pointed out that clubs, both big and small, saw the expense of hiring a relocation service as unnecessary, and saw no problem in leaving players to fend for themselves in finding a place to live, a grocery store, a school for their kids, etc. Consequently, in most instances the performance on the field of these expats suffered, leading to disillusion, apathy, loss of form, etc. Apparently, a few of the big clubs are now offering relocation services to their foreign recruits, and have quickly realized of the benefits resulting from such service. Hopefully, clubs will also see the importance of helping their foreign players acclimatize to their new cultural milieu, and offer them coaching and what is expected of them, on and off the pitch.