Thank goodness the embarrassing spectacle of Real Madrid against Barcelona in the Champions League was played out in the semi-final of the tournament instead of the finale. The first leg of the semi-final was an example of everything that people hate about soccer. Barcelona players crowding the referee on several occasions to influence his decision. Players exaggerating contact. Poor refereeing decisions. The referee stopping and starting the game seemingly every few minutes. Off the pitch pushing and shoving. This is not what soccer is about. This was anti-soccer.
Some may blame Jose Mourinho for setting up his Real Madrid to play negative tactics, to stop Barcelona from playing their game. That was definitely a key component of the negativity but Barcelona was guilty, too. Their play acting was despicable. So too was the way they unnecessarily encircled the referee. And Barcelona committed more fouls than Real Madrid in this one.
It was an ugly game only lifted by two moments of brilliance. One was the run by Ibrahim Afellay down the right wing to cross the ball in for Lionel Messi’s first goal. The second was a magisterial run by Messi where he ran past three Real Madrid players to slot the ball into the corner of the net.
This game tonight was another example why the majority of soccer fans worldwide prefer watching the Premier League instead of La Liga. When games such as this one tonight become less about soccer and more about fighting for dominance, it’s a horrible advertisement for Spanish soccer and the sport in general. I feel sorry for anyone who was subjected to this game, who made sacrifices to watch it (such as leaving work early) because we didn’t deserve to see such a negative event. I should have watched Fulham against Bolton instead.
The sooner these semi-finals are over, the better. The second legs are essentially over before they have started anyway. And hopefully we’ll see two teams in the final who have respect for each other and who will focus on playing the game the way it was meant to be played: Manchester United against Barcelona. Until then, I’m returning to the Premier League to see real football played that is entertaining to watch and that is devoid of the antics that made the abomination of a game Wednesday night a chore to watch.