Lionel Messi – A Superman

Written by  //  April 28, 2011  //  Sport  //  1 Comment

It was anything but classic. The game was more reminiscent of an Old Firm derby – feisty tackling coupled, no doubt, with a lot of feigning that added a brush of Spanish flavour. Thankfully, though, the singular genius of Lionel Messi ensured that the first leg of the Champions League semifinal tie between Real Madrid and Barcelona will not be remembered only for the wrong reasons. In the 87th minute, having already broken the deadlock, Messi waltzed through the heart of Madrid’s backline before finishing past Iker Casillas with the impudence of a boy playing in his backyard. This though was the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Madrid, a most intimidating arena, which Messi quelled with imperious ease.

For the majority of the game, Madrid’s midfield trident Xabi Alonso, Pepe and Lassana Diarra, particularly the latter two, snarled and snapped at the heels of Messi and Xavi Hernandez, disrupting Barcelona’s rhythm and demonstrating their team’s apparent plan of settling for a goalless draw. The strategy, however, received a striking blow when Pepe was sent off in the 62nd minute for a high, reckless challenge on Dani Alves, which deserving as it may have been of a red card brought about a shameful response from the Barcelona full-back, who rolled along the floor as though he had been shot on his chest. His teammates who hounded referee Wolfgang Stark only made matters worse. The Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho – forever the victim, in his and only his eyes – retorted with typical sarcasm, resulting in him being sent to the stands.

The incident, however, had its direct repercussions. It opened the space in midfield that allowed Xavi to finally set the tempo for the match. Still for a brief period, Madrid held on, dogged in their resolve to prevent Barcelona from scoring. In the 77th minute, however, the first goal arrived via the unlikeliest of routes. Ibrahim Afellay, signed from PSV Eindhoven in January, and brought on as a substitute for Pedro, raced on to Xavi’s diagonal pass before squaring the ball with pinpoint accuracy for the darting Messi to finish cutely from two yards out. It was a rare gem in a hitherto dreary fixture.

The goal opened up the possibility of a further onslaught from the Catalans. But Madrid closed down the spaces well, continuing, however, with its robust tackling that bordered on the wild. Respite from the attack though did not last forever. In the 87th minute, the moment of genius arrived. Messi, picked up the ball a few metres inside the Madrid half and beat a string of defenceless players – five in all – before adroitly finding a seemingly impossible shot past Iker Casillas, the turn on which felt like it had to have taken a deflection. The replays revealed that he needed no such luck. The finish was one of matchless class – a perfect culmination to a most splendid dribble. It was a goal worthy of winning any football game and fortunately for us, it takes away some of the limelight from what was an ugly, spiteful affair that was unbecoming of two of the giants of world sport.

The year is turning out to be an Annus Mirabilis of extraordinary proportions for Messi. His goals last night have taken his tally to a remarkable 52 from 50 appearances. The numbers though hardly begin to tell the story. It is the manner of his play, elegant, wondrous and perennially sublime that makes him such a treat to watch. I haven’t seen the likes of Pele and Maradona play on live television. But it’s difficult to imagine that Messi is too far behind them. He is unquestionably the best I’ve seen.

One Comment on "Lionel Messi – A Superman"

  1. ganesh kumar April 30, 2011 at 9:59 am ·

    am very much happy to read this in the times where everyone has been picking faults on the barca’s “play acting”…i have been upset by all those bad remarks about barca’s acting…as an ardent fan of football, i can’t deny it..I feel mourinho made them to play like that..I wonder why people kept their mouth shut in the el clasicos played this season so far, where madrid players attacked everything except the ball…thanks for making me to feel proud as a fan of both messi and barca…

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