April 1, 2020

Inter and FC Bayern meet in Champions League Final

UEFA Champions League
Home and home competition between Europe’s top football (soccer) clubs from each of Europe’s top domestic leagues: England, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, etc.

Purpose: Determine Europe’s top club team.

Bayern Munich v. Lyon:

Bayern Munich punched its ticket to the Champions League final Tuesday night behind a natural hat-trick from Croatian striker, Ivica Oli. Oli tallied in the 26th, 66th, and 77th to propel Bayern to a comfortable win in front of its home fans at Stade Gerland.

Lyon faced a tough task from the outset, as Bayern brought a 1-0 lead into the game from the first leg. Lyon knew it had to score at least two goals while keeping the German giants scoreless, a challenging endeavor under the circumstances.

Bayer’s dominance, however, ensured the away goals rule never came into play, winning easily 3-0.

Between Oli’s goals Bayern’s mercurial Dutchman, Arjen Robben, wreaked havoc down Lyon’s right side, making slashing runs into the area and testing Lyon goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris. Bayern midfielder and German international, Bastian Schweinsteiger, also brought the crowd to its feet with 25-yard cannon shot that sailed just over the crossbar.

So, it’s off to the finals for Germany’s most well-known and most decorated football club, where they’ll face Italian opponents, Inter Milan.

Barcelona v. Inter Milan:

Inter Milan joined Bayern in finals by defeating defending champions, FC Barcelona, widely regarded as the world’s best club team.

Inter laid the foundation for its championship appearance by bringing a 3-1 lead to the Camp Nou for leg-two. The Catalans played shoddy defense in leg-one and were, quite frankly, outplayed by Inter in the first game as well.

Unfortunately, leg-two epitomized why professional football/soccer is still viewed as a tertiary sport in the United States:

1. This game had more theatrics than Broadway. Players on both teams dived all over the field at the slightest contact. There were grown men rolling on the ground, writhing in thespian pain, only to magically recuperate milliseconds later, jump to their feet and sprint 20 yards downfield.

2. One of the dives described above resulted in the harsh sending off of Inter midfielder, Thiago Motta, in the 28th minute. After Barca’s Sergio Busquets and Motta jostled for a ball, Busquets threw himself onto the pitch, holding his face. The match referee bit hook, line and sinker, issuing Motta a straight red card. I hope the referee watches the tape of the incident and is justifiably embarrassed. That single call impacted everything that remained of the match.

3. Now playing 10 v. 11, Inter employed a tactic football pundits refer to as “parking the bus.” After Motta’s premature departure, Inter immediately adopted a total defensive posture, positioning all of its players in or around its 18-yard box. While sound tactically, it has as much spectator appeal as watching paint dry.

4. Barcelona held possession of the ball for just under 80 percent of the game. Nearly 90 percent of that time spent dribbling and passing just outside Inter’s goal area, but unable to penetrate the wall of Inter players.

Not even the amazing Lionel Messi could save this game from itself. The little Argentine tried repeatedly to pry open Inter’s defense, but even his creativity fell short of solving the Inter puzzle. The current World Player of the Year managed only one dangerous attempt on goal, drawing a world-class, fingertip save from Inter keeper, Julio César.

Barca defender Gerard Pique finally broke through in the 84th minute. Showing true professional poise, Pique settled a Xavi pass and pulled it back from a sliding defender and the onrushing César and coolly put the ball into the goal.

The Pique goal brought the Catalan fans to their feet, but it was too little too late. There were no more miracle goals left in Barca. Final score Barcelona 1 Inter 0. Inter wins based on the 3-2 aggregate score.