Thursday, 29 April 2010

Barcelona's Possession Obsession Is Finally Undone

Throughout Pep Guardiola's reign as Barcelona manager his side has defeated teams by dominating possession and harassing opponents when without the ball, and with the help of some of the world's best players it has brought great success. Until last night.

Jose Mourinho's side were the ying, to Barcelona's yang. The defensive display was a showcase of tactics at their very best. Every available man behind the ball, tough tackles and shackling the worlds best player who scored four against Arsenal in the last Champions League game at the Camp Nou.

Inter's approach to the game came as no surprise, they had a two goal advantage from the first leg and Italian teams are famous for their defensive styles (despite Inter not having an Italian on the pitch).

The stats show the dominance of Barcelona in possession, with Xavi completing more passes than the entire Inter side and not one player from Mourinho's team completing 10 passes. Despite enjoying an astonishing 76% possession, Barca only mustered up 7 shots on target, with all but Pique's excellent finish from outside the area, many of which were speculative efforts.

Before the game Mourinho stated that Barca have an 'obsession' with winning the Champions League at arch rivals Real Madrid stadium the Bernabeu. As the game progressed, and Barca continued to play their vintage passing football, it also appeared that they were obsessed to win the game playing 'their' way, refusing to knock the ball long to the make shift striker Pique.

As the game grew old, it was apparent that it was going to be one or the other, either give up on going to the Bernabeu or move away from their footballing philosophies. Eventually, despite Pique's late goal, they stuck to their principles and had to wave goodbye to the possible chance of the ultimate bragging rights over their rivals.

All the credit must go Inter Milan and Mourinho, the tactics deployed were carried out almost perfectly. Even when Motta was sent off, after some theatrics from Busquets, Inter continued to defend and stop one of the most potent attacks in Europe. Despite all of Barcelona's possession, they couldn't score the two goals they needed against a stubborn Inter side.  Inter had a job to do, and they did it (with a little thanks to a dubious hand ball decision by the referee).

And who said that the Champions League needed English teams?