Tuesday, May 12, 2015

That Messi goal!

Some time in the early 90s playing against the Aussies, Kapil Dev produced a magical spell of 3 consecutive out-swingers. I did not see this match, only read about it later in Sportstar. The 1st ball bowled out Alan Border (so technically an in-swinger), and the 3rd bowled out Dean Jones. Apparently it was the 2nd that was the best of the lot. It swung just a bit, and quite late. Dean Jones, who was in a purple patch at that time, played at it and missed. The ball missed the off-stump by a whisker on its way to the wicket-keeper. The writer opined that only Don Bradman could have got out to that.

Meaning the ball was so good, that even the best batsman in the world would have got out to it. And it was so good, that only the best batsman could have got out to it. Dean Jones, great batsman that he was, was not good enough and reacted a bit late.

Sometimes you need to have the best batsman at the other end to witness the excellence of the bowler. And vice-versa. Similarly it takes one of the best defenders playing currently, backed by one of the best goalkeepers to showcase the magic of Messi's 2nd goal against Bayern in the CL semi-final 1st leg.

The 1st goal was typical Messi. He has, so many times, picked up the ball near the right wing, and then cut across parallel to the goal, looking for an angle to shoot with his left foot. Sometimes this would mean skipping past 1, 2, 3 defenders until he found a straight line from ball to goal. He didn't have to do any of that here. Dani Alves did most of the work in cutting the ball across from the left and passing it. Then he moved it to his left foot and let go. Neuer thought he was going for the far end upper corner, and got beaten on his near-side lower end. This partly helped set up the 2nd goal. 

The 2nd goal was genius. Messi picked up the ball and started moving down the line near the edge of the D. When he neared Boateng, he opened up his left shoulder and arm very slightly as if to start cutting across like he normally does. Boateng, either seeing this shoulder movement, or knowing Lionel's propensity to cut across, started to shift his weight to his right, and deny any space for the maestro to shoot with the left. In less than an instant, the striker decided to change directions and go past the defender's left. Boateng, almost immediately noticed this and tried to change direction as well. But his weight had already shifted to the right, causing him to lose balance and fall.

That fall showed how good this World Cup and Champions League winning defender is. Most defenders would have just stood there, and then reacted much later. A very good defender, would have played on the probability, and moved to his right, then ended up looking bewildered as Messi ran towards his other side. Only the best defenders, would have  1st moved right, then immediately tried to change direction, and lost their balance. No one playing fairly could have stopped him.

It took the skills of Boateng to emphasize the magic of Messi's movement. And he wasn't done yet. He topped this with a delectable chip using his weaker foot that outfoxed the giant frame of Neuer. Something that Danny Welbeck tried and failed, the previous season.

Making to World Cup winners look like amateurs. What better way to drive home the point of who's the greatest?

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