Barcelona have become a little overrated, because Arsenal are hugely overrated, says Odhran Harrison.
When the North Londoners were led a merry dance over two legs, the idea took hold that their conquerors could be the finest European club side since Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan team plundered consecutive European Cups in 1989 and 1990.
But Jose Mourinho’s well-drilled Inter team were never going to approach the challenge this absurdly talented team presents with the same reckless naivety that Arsenal did. Messi and Xavi are great players, but the Portuguese manager is in his element devising ways to destroy beauty.
Some of the most absorbing contests in all sport consist of the technically proficient, the aesthetically pleasing, placed in opposition to dogged, determined, defensive resolve. Mourinho’s side relished the role of Rafa Nadal to Barca’s Roger Federer.
Inter set out with a plan that went beyond mere containment, and created the better chances throughout the game, until naturally ceding ground late on. They also proved to possess durability, brushing off the substantial blow of an early goal conceded.
The Spaniards will point to decisive moments that could have gone another way- Milito’s marginally offside third and Sneijder’s apparent foul on Dani Alves in the penalty area – but on the balance of play, the Italians deserved their victory.
Barcelona’s defence has always looked suspect on paper, but most teams lack the ability to put that theory to the test. Inter had that ability, and made the Spanish side look flaky at times.
It was always likely that the post-Arsenal love-in over Lionel Messi was setting him up for a fall, and his influence here was negligible. The tie is still finely poised however, and we should be grateful to see Barcelona’s greatness face a difficult challenge.
Odhran Harrison is the editor of Moral Courage