Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jose Mourinho Guides Inter Milan Past Barcelona On A Bad Night For Football

Jose Mourinho, the man so laughably dismissed as little more than "an interpreter" by Barcelona has guided Inter Milan through to the Final of the UEFA Champions League after they beat La Blaugrana 3-2 on aggregate.

Following Inter Milan's superb performance last week when they beat Barca 3-1, Mourinho brought his troops to battle in the cauldron that is the Camp Nou. In front of 100,000 baying fans, Inter produced one of the best defensive performances seen in years to deny Barca a place in the final.

The manner of their display is made all the more memorable because they had to do it with just ten men after referee Franck De Bleeckere controversially sent off Thiago Motta after just 28 minutes. Inter then went on to not only deny Barca an appearance at the Santiago Bernabeau, but to also deny them of virtually any sight of goal all night long.

There is an old saying in football, strikers win matches and defenders win trophies.

Once again, Javier Zanetti proved to be the foundation for everything that was good about Inter's defensive masterclass. The Argentinian international has always been highly regarded but nearing the twilight of his career, the 34-year-old once again provided a calm head when it was needed most and was a rock for his team.

Lucio, Maicon, and Walter Samuel made up the quartet that reduced Barcelona's chances to pot-shots from distance and when they did eventually find a way through the South American iron curtain they were repelled by the brilliant Julio Cesar.

Barcelona did eventually find the way to goal in the 83rd minute when Gerard Pique's cool finish reduced the deficit but it was to prove the final goal in the game, if not the final major incident.

Amazingly, Lionel Messi has not scored against a Jose Mourinho team in seven attempts. His anonymity tonight can be purely attributed to Pep Guardiola's bungling tactics.

He really got it wrong tonight and made a cardinal error by not trying to get the ball wide to spread Inter's defence while they had ten men. Leaving Lionel Messi to play through the centre where he was easier to neutralise. Had he been pushed out wide the little maestro would have been given ample opportunity to isolate one of the full backs and the result may have been different.

This game will be remembered for a variety of reasons, all of which stain football as we know it.

From De Bleeckere's atrocious display, to the antics of Barcelona players diving everywhere, to Jose Mourinho's disgusting display of vulgarity on winning, to Barcelona's players walking straight off the pitch, to the linesmen being blind, this was a black night for football lovers everywhere.

The Belgian referee was so obviously out of place it was embarrassing. Right from the start he was out of his depth.

Thiago Motta was already on a yellow card when he held Sergio Busquets off the ball with a high arm. The letter of the law may be to send a player off if there is contact with the face, but this was a real case of pure criminal refereeing.

As Busquets ran in from behind Motta held his arm out behind him, it made minimal contact with Busquets neck, but the Barcelona player immediately clutched his face and hit the deck.

De Bleeckere duly responded by giving Motta a straight red. It may have been the wrong decision but the Brazilian's actions afterwards when he grabbed Busquets around the neck were appalling. While he may have had a case to appeal the decision, he will now probably receive a lengthier ban for his handiwork.

Good ol' Franck then turned card happy for a while as he booked Julio Cesar for time-wasting, another wrong decision, and then Christian Chivu after the Romanian international had been adjudged to have fouled Lionel Messi, even though he made clear contact with the ball.

The only decision he really should have made on the night was to send Zlatan Ibrahimovic off for impersonating a footballer.

From there numerous Barcelona players threw themselves in the hope of winning free-kicks or penalties, with the referee displaying a canny eye for knowing which was a dive which was not. However, he did not ever produce a card for such infringements.

Most notably when Dani Alves so obviously dived in the box to win a penalty near the end. Inter provided their fair share of divers too, with Lucio hitting the deck after every clearance in an effort at time wasting.

De Bleeckere then put the icing on the cake of an abysmal performance by disallowing Bojan Krkic goal in injury time, which would have put Barcelona through.

He wrongly ruled that Yaya Toure had deliberately handled the ball in the build-up to the goal that never was.

With the final whistle the game was over and Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan took to the pitch to celebrate.

Barcelona immediately walked off the pitch, so much for being magnanimous. While the ground staff, quite disgracefully, turned the sprinklers on around the celebrating Inter team.

Xavi shook a few hands, while Victor Valdes tried to manhandle Jose Mourinho after the Inter bosses disgusting lack of dignity and class as he stood in the centre of the pitch pointing at the crowd.

Jose may have some bad blood with Barcelona. Ranging from his time there with Bobby Robson in the '90s, to when Barca knocked Chelsea out a few years ago when he was described as "the enemy of football."

But his actions only serve to diminish his own special standing in the game. There is no doubt that he is a genius but his purile actions only leave a stain on his own character.

There are many incidents throughout his entire career that can be described as extremely poor behaviour and his latest showing does nothing to improve his status, cynics would almost wonder if he was trying to endear himself to fans of Real Madrid if all the current rumours are to be believed.

The right team went through tonight. Over the two legs Inter Milan out played Barcelona both in terms of attack and defence. Jose won the battle of the coaches with Guardiola and his status as one of the games greats is enhanced further.

However, football has most definitely taken a step backwards.

UEFA and FIFA refuse to recognise that some referees are out of their depth and should not be over seeing matches at this level. They refuse to accept either retrospective technology or video technology during a match. Both of which would make the referees job far easier. The net result is that the game is being damaged.

The clubs also refuse to accept responsibility for their players and one would almost presume that teams are trying to take advantage of the low standard in refereeing and are allowing and encouraging their players to dive. Once again the game is damaged.

Nobody likes losing. But football must take the example set by rugby union and have the losing team clap the winners off.

Tonight and on other occassions this year, the losing team have trudged off like children without congratulating their opponents. Tonight Barcelona took away from their own phenomenal reputation by walking off.

Not that Inter are blameless. You expect the victors of such an important match to celebrate, but the manner of the celebration by Jose Mourinho was nothing short of incitement.

Combine all of these elements together and it is not good for football.

The sport of soccer has moved to a dark area where the shadow of cheating, not acknowledging the victors, and rubbing the losers nose in it has taken over. Football is being diminished by the people who should be protecting it. There is a culture of nastiness that is seeping through the very fabric of the game.

A victory for football? Not tonight.