Pedro: Barcelona v Man Utd 2011
Words from Ryan Baldi.
The goal I’ve chosen comes from the greatest team I’ve ever witnessed, and it was the opening strike of what was, for me, their finest performance. Barcelona under Pep Guardiola produced many jaw-dropping displays between 2008 and 2012, but the 2011 Champions League final – a 3-1 stroll against a strong but overmatched Manchester United – stands out to me for the dominance Barça showed, the aesthetic quality of their play and the stage on which it took place.
I’ve chosen the first goal of the game, scored by Pedro, for a few reasons. Firstly, because it involved many of the players who made that team so special: Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi – has there ever been a better midfield trio? – orchestrated the move; and although Lionel Messi didn’t touch the ball, his run from right to left drew Patrice Evra out of position, creating the space Pedro exploited.
The moment I love most about this goal is the pause. As Xavi carried the ball forward, advancing toward United’s penalty area, he delayed, with millisecond precision, just long enough for the space to open up for Pedro before releasing a perfectly weighted pass with the outside of his right boot. Xavi was phenomenal in this match, metronomic as he pinged 148 passes across the Wembley turf. He bent the game to his will, and in that one brief moment, he appeared almost to stop time.
I find it fitting, also, that it was Pedro – one of the worker bees of that great Guardiola side, rather than one of the superstars – who added the finishing touch. Barcelona in that era were mesmerising on the ball but also incredibly hard-working and disciplined. Pedro epitomised that. And it was a clever finish, giving Edwin van der Sar the eyes before sliding it in at the near post.
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