Champions League semis

Two days back, I wondered if the Arsenal-Villareal match would be worth watching. Given the way Villareal had played last week, it was very likely that Arsenal would bottle them up and would pump in another goal or two to settle the issue.

Instead, I thought I should conserve my sleep on that day so that I could watch the more appetizing Barca-Milan match instead. These were two really strong clubs, I thought, so the match should be more interesting than the Arsenal-Villareal match. How wrong I was!

The Arsenal-Villareal match turned out to be one hell of an entertainer, with sublime Latin American passing pitted against dour European (I dare not say English ? Campbell was (and that too was only because of Senderos? injury) the only Brit on display) defending. The statistics showed that around 60% of the possession was with Villareal, but I think it would?ve been more.

The Villareal brand of football was a treat to watch. Mostly one (or two) touch, short and accurate passing, unrelenting pressure, and heavy buildup along the midfield. What impressed me most about Villareal?s game was that they never cleared the ball! They never kicked the ball without there being someone to receive it. Even in front of their own goalmouth, they preferred to take the ball out through short passes. Superb stuff!

Credit should also be given to Arsenal?s defending, especially Gilberto and Toure. The chief reason Villareal wasn?t able to penetrate Arsenal?s D too much was that both Riquelme and Forlan were completely tied down and put out of the game. In their absence, and with Franco being woefully out of touch, it was no surprise Villareal couldn?t penetrate too much, and on the few occasions Javi Venta exploited the weak Arsenal left-back, France somehow managed to not put it in.

90 minutes of amazing soccer, and not once did I feel sleepy through the course of the match. Contrast this to yesterday?s largely insipid Barca-Milan match where I drifted off to sleep every 10 minutes or so. Milan never seemed to be in the game, with Barca totally dominating them in the midfield. Don?t recall more than a couple of occasions when Milan threatened, with most of the action happening in their own half where Dida, for a change, was superb.

Four great clubs. Two games. Identical score-lines. And yet so different. Looking forward to the final on the 17th. Somehow I think Gunners will win that one.

PS: Milan was the only non-yellow team in the semis. Villareal wear yellow, and both Arsenal and Barca have yellow away jerseys! And Aruabbarena (Villareal left-back) is a really nice name to pronounce, just like Jotapata or Wasim Akram!

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