It was expected to be a week of heroes, but bizarrely it will more likely be remembered for two men characterized as villains: John Arne Riise for tragically netting an own goal deep into injury time at Anfield, and Cristiano Ronaldo for missing a penalty after less than three minutes at the Nou Camp.
Starting then at Anfield with what many neutrals were actually dreading a little after a collection of tepid-to-say-the-least encounters between the two sides in recent memory. If anything the game was less cagey than last night’s supposedly free-flowing affair in
The goal understandably gave
So to the big face-off, and like we said yesterday, a chance for Ronaldo and Messi to prove if they can really do it on the grandest stage of them all. Big things are rightly expected of big players, and as has often been the criticism in the past, Ronaldo lacked anything approaching the penetration expected of him. He has to learn to do the simple things well, and realise that there is a time for back heels, and a time for straight-forward passes to feet. Looking at the truly great players of the past, Zidane for example never felt the need to do the spectacular in every match, but you could bet your mother’s life on him slotting away from the penalty spot yesterday, rather than trying to find the top corner for the cameras. Messi on the other hand was breath-taking, and despite not playing for several months, was instrumental in every attacking move Barce put together. His movement, footwork and passing were sublime, and it took a top-class performance from Patrice Evra to keep him even remotely shackled. Without Vidic, the United defence looked suspect centrally, and it was this space between midfield and back-four that Messi thrived in, zipping the ball about with so much time and space. Put simply, United must employ Hargreaves in this gap at Old Trafford to snuff out any danger of an away goal, and in
Ultimately, it is United and Chelsea who will be happiest going into the return legs next week, with homefield advantage, and without any deficit to surmount. However, Liverpool and