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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, May 18, 2006

Barca wins Champions League

Van Bronckhorst (left) and Ronaldinho help
Belletti celebrate his goal

Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal

Barcelona scored twice in the last 14 minutes to beat 10-man Arsenal in the Champions League final.

Sol Campbell's thumping header gave Arsenal a 37th minute lead - after goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had been sent off for a foul on Samuel Eto'o.

Thierry Henry missed a crucial chance to give Arsenal a two-goal lead before Eto'o fired home with 14 minutes left.

Henrik Larsson then set up fellow substitute Juliano Belletti to win it four minutes later to sink Arsenal.

Henry opened in sensational fashion and could have twice given Arsenal the lead in the first three minutes.

He turned brilliantly in the Barcelona box, only to be denied by the diving Victor Valdes from point-blank range.

And from the resulting short corner, he fired in an angled drive which was pushed to safety by Valdes.

Arsenal hung on desperately for the remainder of the first-half, with Almunia brilliantly turning Eto'o's shot on to the post after he turned Campbell inside the box.

Barcelona made a half-time change, Andres Iniesta coming on for the injured Edmilson.

Iniesta tested Almunia after 51 minutes, and with a downpour descending on the Stade de France, the keeper did well to clutch a skidding shot.

Barcelona were piling on the pressure, and Almunia again distinguished himself by pushing away Ronaldinho's cross as he raced into the area.

Arsenal were still dangerous on the break. Henry and Cesc Fabregas combined to set up Aleksander Hleb, but he pulled his shot wide.

Ljungberg was denied by a brilliant save from Valdes as he took advantage of poor defending by Oleguer.

Henry then had a glorious chance to double Arsenal's advantage after 69 minutes when he raced clear on goal, but Valdes saved low down to keep Barcelona's hopes alive.

It was to prove the pivotal moment of an enthralling final.

The funny thing was that I went to get a haircut today in the Village, and I passed by two bars which were packed. I walked in one, ready to get a drink and there was no place to stand, forget sit. I watched for a few minutes and then went on my way realizing that it would be pointless trying to watch the rest of the match with Gunner and Barca fans unable to breathe. In fact, people were hanging outside to get the score.

I'd never seen anything like that before. in New York. Sure, with a big Premiership match or Celtic playing, you'll get a crowd, but this was crazy.

People keep saying, well, we heard this 10 years ago.

When did ESPN show a live soccer match 10 years ago, forget a Champions Legaue final? Jon Stewart do an ad for Fox Soccer 10 years ago?


Ok then.

I'll put it this way, soccer is far more popular in New York than NASCAR. Despite their desperate need for a track here, as if New Yorkers think NASCAR isn't for morons. Like Wal Mart, they need to grow in the Northeast, and got about the same reception.

However, soccer has a nice cult niche, and a language lots of people understand. This is probably the only organized sport most kids play, and grows in popularlity because people understand how to play.
It's not baseball, but it's not invisible either, there is an audience for it, and even the know nothingism of Jim Rome is now seen as a joke Nike can exploit as a commercial.

The funny thing about the crowd is that it was mixed, ex-suburbanites, expats, NYU kids, not just immigrants like it might have been in the past. When Greece won Euro 2004, Astoria broke out in celebration. That wouldn't have made the news 10 years ago. In 1986, the World Cup final was shown on UHF.

I can't wait for the World Cup with it's East Coast friendly starts. With ESPN showing every match, there's clearly an audience for it. But I stll will probably watch Telemundo to catch Andres Cantor and his signature goal calls.

posted by Steve @ 1:20:00 AM

1:20:00 AM

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