Game in a Sentence
Benfica lively, create space, can’t finish, Barcelona win with two goals created by Mr. Messi and scored by others in a fairly mundane game at the Estadio da Luz.
- Benfica started in an ostensible 4-1-4-1, with Lima up top attempting to use his Brazilian magic against Mascherano and Puyol, and Matic in front of what was a fairly flat back four, understandably.
- Barcelona went with Pedro on the right, Messi and Sanchez, with Xavi, Biscuits and Fabregas in the middle. Mascherano did his CB thing, in which he was mostly very good.
- The play: long-time readers of the Footy Blog will know that Benfica tends to frustrate the pants off me in the Champions League (why I chose this game when I had the pick of the litter I don’t know), and despite their stretching the Barcelona defense at times, that didn’t change much today. Jorge Jesus managed to field a formation that stretched Barcelona in defense (Salvio was particularly active and effective on the right). Their movement was very good at times in the final third. But, crucially, Barca didn’t afford them the space to finish.
- Meanwhile Barca did their thing, but aside from the Sanchez goal courtesy of a straight-forward whipped in cross from Messi in the 7th minute, they didn’t create much of a direct threat to the Benfica goal in the first half aside from a tantalizing cross and a Sanchez half-chance. Benfica for their part played a high defensive line at times but didn’t always win the offside trap.
- It seemed in the second half Jorge Jesus put on Carlos Martins for Bruno Cesar to give the side a bit more strength in the middle, but he was clumsy. So was the goalkeeping from Artur. Fabregas easily shot past him from another Messi assist for a soft second goal in the 55th. GAME OVER. Benfica BORINGLY played deeper and deeper despite losing.
- In typical Benfica fashion though, the side arranged several good chances, from Salvio and Jardel with a nice header in the 61st minute. They did all the right things, except not suck against the best passing side in the world.
- Messi is very good. At everything.
- ZM UPDATE:
Benfica in the game in the first half but now too tired. Barca moves always in inside-left channel
— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) October 2, 2012
- Game sort of faded UNTIL: 1) Iniesta came on and was awesome. Super sub Iniesta. 2) Puyol broke his arm. Film at 11. Gore Porn. NSFW. Let’s hope he’ll recover soon. 3) Busquets got sent off in the 89th minute for…I don’t know. Still looking at replays. The irony in all this is that Benfica were the guys pulling the rough stuff at the end.
- Conclusions? Not much, except losing Puyol is a big blow to Barcelona in La Liga. As for Benfica…I dunno. They lost a couple of heavy-hitters in the summer, but it’s the same players doing the same things as last year. They’re really boring in Europe. Not the greatest CL match day in history, let’s put it that way.
1. Lionel Messi
2. Cesc Fabregas
3. Jordi Alba