Barca come up short again!

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.

The lucks still with Jose

Mixed feelings from Inter Milan’s 3-1 win over Barcelona tonight. On one hand Inter played really well and exposed Barcelona’s defensive frailties. One the other, it would be fair to say that Inter had the better of some of the referee’s decisions.

In truth, (and as much as I hate to admit it, as I’m no Mourinho fan) Milan were exceptional tonight and fully deserved their win. They could easily have scored two or three more, and Mourinho got his tactics spot on as he nullified Messi by cutting off his supply line from Xavi.

But Milan’s good fortune at the San Siro continued on from the Chelsea game. First, Milito headed in Sneijder’s abysmal headed attempt on goal that was going well wide, from an offside position.

The luck then continued in the last 10 minutes with two Barca penalty appeals going in Inter’s favour.

Wesley Sneijder made a tackle on Alves that was a clear penalty, but only resulted in a booking for Alves for diving. Then Lucio also got lucky after barging Pique out of the way in the penalty area, not a definate penalty, but I’ve seen them given for less.

All this after a blatent penalty was turned down in the Chelsea game at the San Siro in the last 16, an incident that surely turned the tie in Inter’s favour.

It reminds me of the year Mourinho won the competition with Porto and the onside goal that was disallowed at Old Trafford from Paul Scholes. It’s as if his name is on the trophy already.

In a further twist of good fortune for Mourinho, Barcelona had to make a 20 hour coach journey to Milan due to the Icelandic volcano and the ‘flight ban’. It was refreshing though to hear Pep Guardiola not blame the defeat on the journey.

I do hope Barca can turn this tie around, although I think they will have their work cut out next week. Imagine the hype surrounding Mourinho if he can knock out the (supposed) best side in the world. Sky Sports will be able to carry on with their sickening love in of him, and the talk of him returning to the Premier League will reach fever pitch. It would be unbearable.

Chelsea slip up again

Chelsea will have to wait at least another year if they are to win the Champions League and bury the ghost of John Terry’s slip in the penalty shoot out of 2008.

As much as I hate to admit it, Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan team deserved their victory at Stamford Bridge tonight.

The visitors played well throughout and had chances to score the all important away goal, long before Samuel Eto’o finished the tie with his 79th minute strike. Chelsea’s only real period of domination came in the final 10 minutes of the 1st half.

That was about it for Chelsea though, all in all they didn’t do enough for me, Anelka was non existent, Drogba didn’t have much to work with, Ballack and Lampard were kept quiet, while Malouda showed flashes at times coupled with poor delivery from corners.

From an Italian perspective I would be thinking it was a job well done, they didn’t ever really look in much trouble, and when called into action Inter defended well, throwing their bodies in the way of everything Chelsea could muster.

One thing I did notice was the continued holding and shirt pulling at set pieces, a coulple of blatent ones in particular which the Italian’s did well to get away with. Then again Italians always have done!

Add to that the stone-wall penalty Chelsea had turned down in the 1st Leg and they can feel slightly aggrieved to be out of the competition tonight.

One thing that never changes with Italian sides though, is their ability to close a game out. They took every opportunity after the goal to waste time and kill the game, rolling around looking for treatment, debating amongst themselves who should take a free kick, all the tricks of the trade.

Jose Mourinho himself, has plenty of previous in the art of time wasting and gamesmanship as well, just ask the Celtic fans.

In the Champions League outright winner betting, Inter are now 9/2 with Coral, Blue Square, 888 Sport, Boylesport and Paddy Power. They are 4/1 with the majority of the rest, and as short as 7/2 with Skybet.