A goal in the nick of time from the Canary Islander in the second half of extra time has handed Barça their third European Super Cup. Now we can talk of a brand new Barça of the Five Cups.
57 years later, Barça can once again boast a ‘Team of the Five Cups’. Like that legendary side led by the great Ladislau Kubala in 1952, Guardiola’s team has won all five tournaments possible in 2009. The Cup, the League, the Champions League and the Super Cups of both Spain and Europe.
In Monaco, Barça have made amends for the disappointment of 2006. But they suffered more than they have done in other finals this year – the Ukrainians held out against Barça’s relentless attack until the very end. Penalties were looming, but then Pedro latched onto a Messi pass to score the only goal of the night, and win the European Super Cup for the third time.
Barça struggled from the start to find a way past Shakhtar’s rock solid defence. The poor condition of the grass didn’t help matters, preventing Barça from playing their trademark passing game to perfection, but the midfield also made more mistakes than we are used to seeing of them and were receiving the ball in all the wrong areas. This made it hard for midfield and attack to connect – it was uncharacteristic of Barcelona to only shoot once in the whole of the first half hour (Henry, min 8).
But despite the lack of initial depth, and some sloppy combination play, Barça were undoubtedly the dominant side. And they gradually started making their possession count. In the 32nd minute, Messi had the best chance of the game with a quickly taken free kick, he himself ending the move with a shot from a narrow angle that almost had goalkeeper Pyatov beaten. Barça gained ground in the final minutes of the first half, but all they got out of it was a series of corners that came to nothing.
Messi takes over
Things hardly improved after the break. Barça enjoyed 65% of the possession and bravely opted to move Messi into a more central position in the attack. Playing the Argentinian in the middle also drew Shakhtar’s wider players in, which opened up spaces down the wings. It was Messi, who, in the 73rd minute struck powerfully from the edge of the area, an effort that was turned away only as far as Henry, whose strike was sent over for a corner by the Ukrainian stopper.
Ibrahimovic also had a fine chance with a decent shot and a penalty claim in two counter attacking moves. The Swede then came off to make way for Pedro, who sought to open the play more towards the right. But though Barça were in supreme control, Shakhtar always looked dangerous on the counter with their fast, skilful forwards. Henry almost broke the deadlock off a Puyol corner inside the six-yard box in the 86th minute, but time was running out, and the game went into extra time.
There were some tired legs out there, and Shakhtar almost won it against the run of play with a penetrating run from Julius that Valdés dealt with in the 98th minute. Barça’s secret weapon, however, was Bojan. He had the first major Barcelona chance of extra time following an amazing slaloming run in the 101st minute. A powerful drive from Alves then skimmed wide of the post. The goals just wouldn’t come, and penalty kicks were becoming an inevitability. But just when it looked like time had run out for both teams, Pedro and Messi produced a one-two and the Canary Islander finished off the move with a delightful conversion that, at long last, had Pyatov beaten.
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