The Russian Banana PeelBy: Pedro | October 20th, 2009
That was the general consensus when another ho-hum Champions League Group draw show came to an end and Rubin Kazan had wound up with Inter, Barcelona and Dynamo Kiev. A banana peel in a group of high-flyers, more or less. One that the well-oiled high powered Barcelona and Inter were planning to avoid slipping on, with Dynamo following suit.
Rubin Kazan showed some evidence that dispels the whole banana peel theory last match day where they held Inter to a draw in Russia. But, this was the same Inter that’s been sort of suffering from some gearing problems in the Champions League, and perhaps Inter simply couldn’t see the frozen banana peel halfway hidden in the Russian terrain – an area that’s a few centimeters farther away than most customary Champion League away matches.
Funny too, because I couldn’t help but feel rather subdued as Ryanzantsev thumped in an early shot as hard as the hammer that was symbolic of the communist state that Kazan was once a part of. It felt like an isolated incident. I was ready to dismiss Marquez’s attempt to control the incoming lob as just a screw-up from some freak occurrence like involuntary muscle twitch syndrome or full body tourettes or his eye caught the sight of some beautiful vixen in the stands. Whatever.
As time went on, it become more and more clear. Granted the little pop up showing Rubin Kazan’s 1 shot to Barcelona’s 452 shots kept reminding me that yes, serendipity did have something to do with it… the fact that the Tatarstan team were continually stifling Josep’s dream boys and willing to move forward when possible confirmed that my banana peel theory was now completely shattered.
“Toure’s thinking man pose: What went wrong?”
I’d have to throw all my research material away, because of two bloody well taken goals by some Russian team. Bugger.
However, of all similar teams that have come into the Camp Nou and hustled and bustled and pegged their hopes on a solitary chance or two, Rubin Kazan certainly had been one of the most precisely organized opponents yet.
I would now usually start going into how in actuality Rubin Kazan’s astute defense benefited from a lackluster performance by Barcelona but that would only really be a half-truth. Yes, OK, Barcelona did look a bit lackadaisical in the first 30-35 minute stretch. Perhaps they had all come off a pre-game nap.
Point is soft passes, and a lack of true tension was evident. While Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and the like enjoyed the usual spaces in the midfield, the final passes were consistently disrupted by 400,000 green-socked legs and complacency was punished with tenacious marking and double teaming.
Like any other drug, the words of Josep Guardiola occasionally need time to have an effect and may creep up in a subtle manner. Firmer passes started to become more of the norm. Off the ball movement was done with cunning conviction and that classic tension that Guardiola approved of had started to show itself as the team tried and tried through clever Dani Alves lobs, dribbles from Pedro, body shakes from Messi, evasive Iniesta hustle and Swedish ball control.
“Firm passes, Messi! If i wanted them soft, i wouldn’t have gotten out from under the sheets of your mother’s bed!”
These behavioral changes and hard work were rewarded with a concrete goal: A cool-as-you-like lob by Xavi and an instinctual finish by Eto- err Zlatan. Ibrahimovic. The big one up front there. Right, ahem.
Progress was being made until the 73rd minute where a situation occurred that not only reads as an unappealing movie plot but really describes the match in a nutshell:
Messi’s minor complacency results in a pass which is once again deflected by a green leg. The deflected ball eludes the usual magnetic attraction toward Barcelona players and lands at the feet of Dominguez. Wasting no time, Dominguez tip toes and laces a pass right into a steaming Gokdeniz who opts to waste no time with limp wristed fancy ooohs and aaahs, instead going for the tried and true far post zinger to make it 2:2 shot to goal ratio (match stat notes there was a third shot but who are you going to trust, them or me?).
Not all doom and gloom, though. While there was a large spell of poor Barca performance, the team did show the ability to change and improve mid-match. With the absolutely atrocious and annoying international breaks out of the way, I think I’ll retain my faith on Josep finding an appropriate groove for this team even though I’ve had to abandon my banana peel theory.
I can’t help but sneak in a little note on the available bench for Barcelona which read: A full-time rapper who moonlights as a goalie, a slightly injured caveman, Keiteeeeee, the criminally underused Maxwell, a plate of Biscuits, a slightly worse version of Pedro, and an ineffectual Bojan.
Starts with a… slip. That’s what Joan Laporta labels this as. A slip. If you’re keeping count, that would make the number of slips Laporta has been a part of into a bona fide crisis by now (see: Barcagate, Catalan independence disputation). Luckly, Guardiola’s short career at the top has shown he’s good at keeping slips from turning into the Titanic.
Yeah, they’re up next. Good test. Jermaine Pennant is rubbing his hands in excitement.
- Dani Alves
That frolicking gazelle who has hysterical goal celebrations is out for 3 weeks. Predictably it occurred suddenly as he was tracking a ball back by himself, not from some crunching Alves-rolling-n-yelping tackle. Enter: Oleguer.
- Banana Peel Theory
- Madrid Can’t Win Big Games Without C. Ronaldo Theory