Messi 4 – 1 Arsenal

April 8, 2010 8 Comments by Sian

Not a particularly inspired title to a post given I’d imagine most newspapers yesterday went with this theme, but a pretty fair enough one.

What can be said that hasn’t been said before? Barcelona have on their team plenty of excellent players but they also have a small Argentinean one whose level of excellence is seemingly unsurpassable by anyone else. He’s 22, by the way. Never have I been more thankful that I don’t support any teams in La Liga.

I’ll start with our journey to the match. There were coachloads and coachloads of us queuing around the Camp Nou around two hours before kick-off as the Barcelona/UEFA/whoever officials had decided, in their wisdom, to get us into the stadium before the home fans arrived. Because as I’m sure you’re aware, Barcelona and Arsenal fans are as violent as they come. The body count had we not been shoved in the top tier of a very high stadium being blinded by the sun two hours before kick-off… it’s just difficult to comprehend. Also, kudos to the same organisers for staying only one step off a full-on strip search on the way in. The items of make-up-shaped missiles that could have squeezed their way in had they not!

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Anyway, we got in safely and soundly eventually and took up our seats on a nearby mountain with a handy birds-eye view of the match. This was where much of our Barcelona trip’s hilarity took place (well, there was a very funny incident with a German-or-Danish-or-we-weren’t-really-sure-what man complaining about his sewing project being stolen… but you probably had to be there). I tend to find football fans among the funniest people in the world, especially slightly drunk ones who don’t really give a damn what anyone else thinks. One fellow supporter reached the top (his seat was the back row in relation to our second-from-back-row… suckaaaaa) and exclaimed: “Cor f*** me, how high up is it?” Then a younger lad, following his mate up said: “Look, are you finding our seats or are you just going upwards?”

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These chaps were mere pretenders when compared with another guy (we’ll call him Jim) who was absolutely outraged at just how high up the Arsenal allocation of seats had been. He found the first steward he could see – you will be able to see the poor guy in the orange bib in the photo below – and said “Excuse me, do you speak English? These tickets? 75 euros! 75 euros and this is the view we get! It’s disgusting isn’t it? It is! It aint even got a f***ing roof! The people’s club? THE PEOPLE’S CLUB?! My arse, the people’s club!” Jim then went on to come back and say the same thing three times to the same guy, and to find a couple of policemen to do the same to. Unfortunately, the best he got out of any of them was: “That is very expensive.”

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It’s a nice stadium, the Camp Nou. Pretty colours, nice round shape, STUPID layout. The steps up to our seats were of differing heights, weren’t quite large enough for a whole adult human foot and, best of all, were curved on the edges! That’s some brilliant engineering right there, and an excellent tactic by the stadium’s owners. If the away fans get too lairy, not to worry, they’ll probably slip and die on their way out! Not that it was difficult to be louder than the Barcelona fans. To have the privelege of watching the best team in the world (probably) every week and to only bother to start getting behind your team after you’ve gone 2-1 up in the quarter finals of the Champions League, is a bit shameful really. Arsenal fans aren’t exactly the loudest in the world, but we do better than that. Plus, we’re not winning every trophy that exists on the planet.

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Anyway, on to the match. Barcelona didn’t start out as dominant as they had at the Emirates, but that was a level of dominance probably impossible to recreate anyway. I was still clock-watching though, and counting down the minutes Barca hadn’t scored in. Oh ye of little faith! The thing we complain about, as Arsenal fans, is our inability to take our chances when they’re handed on a plate just minutes in. We always have one chance that we faff around with and end up letting go of. This was not to be the case in this match. On 18 minutes, Abou Diaby (who was far from his best throughout the match) made an important pass to Theo who made a blistering run down the side of the pitch before very unselfishly passing to Nicklas Bendtner who booted it straight into the hands of Victor Valdes. Fortunately, this was fifth-choice-for-Spain Valdes who didn’t manage to keep hold of it, gave it back to Nick for Nick to have to scramble back onto his feet and finish the goal.

I’m glad for Nicklas, because I love Nicklas, but I also think it was a brilliant goal for him and one that proves what we’ve been saying about his workrate/the effort he puts in being brilliant. I can’t even count up the number of other strikers who’d have gone “Oh I missed, damn, I’ll lay here for a while… oh shit he dropped it? Oh no.” Nick was straight back up on his feet putting those massively long legs to use and putting one past Valdes.

If the Barcelona fans had been singing at all, that would have shut them right up. Unfortunately, not for long as a mere three minutes later, Messi equalised for the home side. I hear it was a good goal. It looked OK from where I was sitting but in the words of my God and leader Arsene Wenger: “I ‘ave not seen it again” Actually, I have. I’ve seen all four of the little shagger’s goals and they were all beautiful. He’s a big talent, that boy. I predict big things in his future. We’ve complained about Almunia this season, but I don’t think many goalkeepers would have kept Messi out on Tuesday night. To see Thomas Vermaelen, a man so icy-cool he makes Dennis Bergkamp look positively effervescent, completely unable to defend the player just shows you how good he is.

I still think it’s time for us to get our heads out of Messi’s arse though. Just sayin’.

I don’t really know what else to say. The defeat didn’t hurt that much, in comparison with previous knock-outs by Manchester United and Liverpool, because Barcelona are a wonderful team and they deserve all the plaudits they’re receiving (except they do dive. Shit teams need to dive; you do not, Barcelona!) Plus I really like Pep Guardiola. Mostly because of his name, but also because he’s a great manager.

We were held in the stadium for about an hour after the Barcelona fans had left. This is where Arsenal Football Club should be proud of its fans, even though only three members of the team bothered to come over and applaud us for making the journey and squinting our way through the game (the players being Gael, Nick and Thomas) Some teams’ fans might have got fed up sitting in a cold, empty stadium, when your team has just been mugged of its life savings on the pitch very far away from you, and got into fights, or at least got a bit rowdy. What did we do? Make paper aeroplanes of course! There was one particularly spectacular one which made it almost down to the pitch. We all sat, enchanted. One man did get stabbed in the neck while we were waiting, but it was only by my Mum and sister with their very own giant super-plane they crafted out of a “Catalonia is NOT Spain” poster. They weren’t trying to make any kind of political statement but the only other paper we had on us was our match tickets, which would have made for a much less impressive aircraft. Below is said aeroplane, on its second ill-fated journey (post-stabbage)

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Off we trundled back to our coaches after we were freed from the restraints of the stadium, and past lots of riot police we walked quietly. I would have said that the face shields they all wore were unnecessary to say the least.

Outclassed, but in the process of being so, we got to see our team score at the Camp Nou, we got to see a match that will surely go down in history (if only on Messi’s CV), we got to have a lovely little trip to Barcelona – and it really was lovely – and we got to be beaten by the best team in the world. To borrow an altered phrase from Patrice Evra around about this time last year: “Fue niños contra niños”… but the better team of niños won. And the hombres of last year went out at the same stage as us this time. Teach you to keep schtum, won’t it Patsy?

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8 Comments

  1. Alan Ranscombe
    2639 days ago

    Spot on, Siany. I felt like I was there all over again.

    Reply

  2. Sam H
    2639 days ago

    “Little shagger”

    Ha!

    Quality, yet again.

    At least you didn’t ruin things on a United scale

    Reply

  3. Marcus Dysch
    2639 days ago

    Great blog, captures that fantastic cameraderie that you only get from an away crowd – when hundreds/thousands of people from one place all of a sudden find themselves in alien territory the atmosphere is a brilliant “us against the world” one.

    We needed to know more about the sewing kit though.

    The Nou Camp is frightening. Literally. I couldn’t bear to be sitting right up there in the gods, watching little dots run around.

    Prefer to be closer to the pitch so the players can hear when you are berating them. Once found myself in the away end at a Bradford v Palace game. Gave the Bradford keeper such abuse that the poor bugger turned round and eye-balled me after a goalkick. Was a very proud moment.

    Reply

  4. Sam H
    2639 days ago

    At Upton Park, small sections of the more rowdy disposition continually call either the linesman, ref or away goalkeeper by their first name until the turn around to see who it is.

    Then there’s an unheralded torrent of abuse – physical and verbal gestures. Always makes me smile.

    Lovely bunch we are

    Reply

  5. shegunner
    2639 days ago

    Great blog! So witty. Love your writing.

    Reply

  6. Rebecca Jill
    2638 days ago

    Great insight from an away fan perspective.

    Your writing along with the pictures capture the experience.

    Nicklas Bendtner was brilliant on his goal.

    Reply

  7. Tricia
    2638 days ago

    Loved it again. Nicklas’ goal was great. And unfortunately for us, so were Messi’s.

    Also, I’m pretty sure I would’ve passed out if I were in those seats. That looks like a long way down and heights and I are not on friendly terms.

    Reply

  8. Steven Holt
    2628 days ago

    I just found your blog on twitter.
    lol, I really like the Messi 4 arsenal 1 headline! :D
    This whole blog is really good! I like the way you argue both the positives and the negatives, so you never sound biased! great stuff! i’ll start reading it from now on!
    take care! :D
    Steven.

    Reply

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