Ah, the debate that roiled….
In the comments of Isaiah’s most excellent match review, Abidal was called out for the free header that the Dynamo player had, and really should have scored from, off a set piece. I defended Abidal, and it was pointed out that he was slack on marking his man, he’s done it before, etc.
Watch the video again.
When you do, and do that fancy DVR thing to view it frame-by-frame, you see that it is Keita’s man that crosses in front of him for the header. Abidal had his man covered, a man who winds up off to his right side, away from the play. I had to watch it about 4 times to see it. Now, certainly if we’re expecting Abidal to cover two men, his own and the one who leaked (not out of the realm, given the immense match that he played), he has some culpability for that golden chance for Dynamo. Otherwise, Keita should watch NBA games to learn how to box out.
A few more observations. Iniesta was playing the Henry position, which I now call Lonely on the Left. He finally drifts toward to middle as to have an opportunity to play with the other kids, exchanging places with Ibrahimovic.
–We were able to take advantage of Dynamo’s willingness to play for the draw and the Europa spot, to keep the ball, essentially forever. With possession stats verging on 80/20 in our favor, this match was a living, breathing manifestation of our “offensive defense” in action. Pass and move, pass and move.
–A gorgeous sequence of 18 passes led to the Abidal assist for the Xavi goal. Why was he so wide open? Again, he wound up occupying the Lonely on the Left spot, as the Dynamo defenders concerned themselves with Xavi, Iniesta (who was in the middle with Xavi), Messi and Ibrahimovic. Abidal had another curler for the head of Xavi that just missed, earlier in the first half.
–When we have a match done and dusted, it’s better to play one-touch, to protect Messi. He got hammered while making a run that he didn’t really need to make, and now he’s injured. The rest will do him good, but still.
Team: 8. An excellent display of ball control offense and defense. If you don’t have the ball, you can’t beat us. Teams know this, but defending against it is a lot more difficult than it seems, particularly if we don’t really want to score. We were as content with the 1-1 as Dynamo were.
Guardiola: 7. He made the right call on Busquets, whose movement around the pitch facilitated our passing game. But in the 20/20 that is hindsight, I would have started Henry, then subbed in Iniesta when we had to play tika-taka defense.
Valdes: 5. He has to make that stop. And with the Dynamo header, he didn’t follow the ball, so had the attacker made contact, it would have been a goal. He could do with watching some instructional videos by Casillas or Buffon, to see how they track the ball on set pieces to keep their body between ball and goal line.
Alves: 7. Strong match, particularly on defense, once he got the yips out of his system. Got beat pretty badly on the play that forced Pique to foul, yielding the free kick that led to the Dynamo goal.
Pique: 5. Uncharacteristically off, with sketchy early play, passes going awry and general mediocritude. He played out of it in spurts, but …. Also, if he’d gotten the deserved yellow for the foul, he could have been sent off (and really should have been anyhow) for that hand ball.
Puyol: 6. Solid from Captain Caveman. Did all the right things, didn’t have a ton to do.
Abidal: 8. Holding it down as usual, with omnipresence on the defensive end, and in the attacking end as that safely valve pass receiver.
Busquets: 7. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) led the way today, as he didn’t try to gild the lily, or make fancy little flicks or headers. He just kept the ball moving, and followed play to make a number of interceptions and play disruptions.
Keita: 7. Quiet, but excellent match from the man who has really come into his own this season.
Xavi: 8. I love watching him play, and when we play our offensive defense, it’s really remarkable to watch him play. He was always in full control, and that was quite the instinct on the goal that he scored.
Messi: 6. I know, I know …. I hate Messi. Yeah, yeah, whatever. He wasn’t all that hot in the first half, and was a ball hog in the second. One player shouldn’t have the ball at his feet that much. Hell of a free kick to get it up and over the wall like that.
Iniesta: 6. Solid for Ghostface. Really came into his own when all we were doing was possessing the ball. On offense, he can’t really dribble defenders these days, and can’t out pace someone, as Henry still can. Hmmm ….
Ibrahimovic: 5. Was dropping more balls than an all-boys primary school in springtime. One play had me screaming at the TV, as a pass just missed, and he just walked away from the loose ball, which Messi sprinted in to claim and attack. Dude, come on.
Pedro!: incomplete. Really came in to kill a little bit of time, and run around some. Good. Thanks.
Marquez: incomplete. If he can’t keep from getting egg on his face with this match, it will never, ever happen.
So. Next up we have Espanyol, World Club championships, then a much-needed break for the Liga.
Until then ….