You don’t need me to tell you that Barcelona utterly dominated their English counterparts in Saturday’s Champions League final. So I won’t tell you: I’ll show you some charts and diagrams instead! The passing, shooting and assist numbers for this match go a long way in showing just how Pep’s crew dismantled Manchester United. The stats for the game also reveal some subtle changes in the way Barcelona played this match that help explain the team’s ultimate victory.
Barcelona Passing Dominance
Only a fool would have failed to predict that Barcelona would hog possession in this contest, but the extent to which they imposed their passing game on the match is incredible. The team completed 719 out of 813 passes, with all three central midfielders in sparkling form. In fact, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets completed more passes between the three of them than the entire United squad combined. Xavi’s total, 142 out of 150 sets a new record for the Champions League this season. In contrast, Ferguson’s team completed only 110 passes in the attacking half, its fewest in any Champions League match this year.
One of the reasons that the Barcelona midfield exerted such dominance in the match was that the United midfield largely failed to turn up for the contest. Wayne Rooney was charged defensively with keeping track of Busquets, yet he made only two defensive interceptions during the entire 90 minutes. The numbers for Park, Carrick and Valencia are not much more encouraging. And Ryan Giggs, named to the squad for his creativity and experience, was virtually anonymous during the match with only 29 of 36 passes successful.
Some pundits have criticized the Barcelona attack for engaging in “meaningless possession.” I would argue that the team was at its incisive best at Wembley: by the end of the day, all three of our central midfielders had passed their way to an assist on goal.
The Barcelona Attack
Two weeks of rest restored some of the luster to Barcelona’s attack. But it was their willingness to shoot the ball from distance that seemed to leave their opponents guessing, and ultimately paid off with goals. Barcelona has rightly been accused of trying to walk the ball into the net, but the offensive strategy was tweaked for this match, to great effect. Was Van der Sar slow to react to Messi’s shot simply because he expected a pass instead? Quite probably.
Over the course of the match, the team wracked up 22 shots with 11 of them being on target. For the first time in Champions League final history more than 1 goal was scored from outside the box.
Messi’s individual brilliance
Official Man of the Match Lionel Messi was in unstoppable form on Saturday, and a few stats underline the extent to which he was the motor for the team’s offense. Messi made 92 successful passes out of 100 attempted, his highest tally of the season. And as he grew into the match, his trademark mazy runs instilled panic in the United defense, and ultimately led to the third and decisive goal from David Villa.
Charts and diagrams courtesy of Total Football and UEFA.com