Not for the first time in recent years, Barcelona failed at the Semi-final stage of the Champions League as Inter Milan sent them out of the tournament on Wednesday.
Last year against Chelsea, Barcelona rode their luck and only got through after a series of controversial refereeing decisions and a last minute goal, the year before that Manchester United saw them off over two legs with relative ease, and if my memory serves me right, United even missed a Nou Camp penalty as well.
This time was the turn of Inter Milan. The stats from Wednesday’s game show that Barcelona had all the play, but what did they achieve with it?
The answer is ‘not a lot’.
There seemed to be no urgency or tempo to Barcelona’s play. The ball just kept going slowly from left to right and back again, for all Xavi’s possesion he never produced any killer passes.
Did Guardiola get his tactics wrong in picking Dani Alves in a more advanced role? When Alves plays at right back he is forever bombing forward and creating the overlap, and adding an extra attacking option.
On Wednesday we seen none of this, when the ball headed out to Inter’s left I found myself expecting to see another Bacra man come charging into shot to create the overlap, due to Guardiola’s selection this wasn’t happening and I believe it played into Inter’s hands.
In the end all that came from Barca’s right was a series of long aimless crosses that were meat and drink to Walter Samuel and the rest of his well drilled defence.
It all became too predictable from Barca, all they did was come back inside and play narrow, Inter could see it all coming and apart from the disallowed goal at the death, the door was firmly shut down the middle of Inter’s defence.
Guardiola also made a strange substitution for me, taking Ibrahimovic off after an hour made no sense at all. Ok, he wasn’t setting the world on fire, but surely you need to keep the focal point of your attack on the pitch?
There was a ball fired across the Inter six yard box with around 10 minutes left and there was no Barca player there to add the finishing touch. It looked tailor made for Ibrahimovic, on such big calls are matches decided.
The refereeing wasn’t up to much over the two legs either, in the 1st leg Inter scored an offside goal and Barca had a definate penalty turned down.
The disallowed goal for handball at the Camp Nou could have easily stood on another night, and would have knocked Inter out. I suppose all in all you could say Inter had more decisions go their way.
They did have Motta wrongly given a straight red card for a (supposed) elbow on the diving Sergio though. But the fact was that Motta was on a yellow and probably would have collected a 2nd one at least for the incident.
Walter Samuel picked up a lot of injuries for a big man, but apart from his ridiculous time wasting exploits he and the rest of his defence were magnificent. It was a great effort to hold out with only 10 men for well over half the match.
Did Sergio’s play acting decide Inter’s tactics for them when he got Motta sent off? We will probably never know. Given the Italian nature to defend a lead, it was probably highly unlikely that Inter would have been any more attcking with 11 men on the field.
All the talk on Thursday was that it is a foregone conclusion that Inter and Mourinho only have to turn up to beat Bayern Munich in the final. As pointed out on this blog ahead of Bayern’s games against Manchester United, don’t underestimate Louis van Gaal and his team.
van Gaal is proven at this level and is a very tactically astute manager. Will he be good enough to take on Mourinho? That is another question alltogehter which only time will tell.
I just think the final will be a lot closer than people seem to think it will be, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bayern pull it off.