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Barcelona vs. Valencia (June 2001)

See the Goal - Rivaldo's Bicycle Kick

Barca, who sat in fifth place, needed to win and Valencia in fourth just needed a draw to qualify for the Champions League. It was a cool night in Spain, the day before near ninety; rain fell off and on in the first half. Most of the crowd seemed dressed for church, especially the older folks in their Sunday best, chilling like saints and wanting to be treated as such by Barca. I sat in anticipation. Watched them warm up and tried to picture my self out there.

In the opening minutes, Rivaldo, they would chant his name often, stepped up from nearly thirty five yards and bent a free kick into the lower right, hitting the inside of the post, the ball going up and over the wall and then the diving down. The crowd roared. Cameras flashed across the stadium.

Valencia drew even twenty minutes later on an open header off a corner. Killing the energy of the Barca team. Lessening the eager focus of the fans who didn't miss anything--vicarious to an extreme and demanding. Telling the players to piss off at the first sign of holding back or if they made a mistake.

Barca played through Rivaldo as much as possible. After his goal he split two defenders before being taken down, and on another occasion he chipped the ball over a defender's head and dribbled on--and he seemed always looking for his shot from even seemly absurd distances.

Barca also pushed the ball to Klivert´s feet to get out of pressure, or with a long diagonal crosses looking to score. Although the Valencia defenders usually won out on the headers.

Barca often found Overmar´s feet or tried to put him through by sending the ball over the top, leading him into the corner to use his speed. Valencia usually dropped a defender over to help. Overmars always took people on. Cutting inside and out, or turned after receiving a hard pass, then blazing into the middle. Late in the game, he almost got the winner, clear on the top of the box after slashing across the middle, he hit a soft shot, trying too hard it seemed to place it delicately--it went right to the keeper.

Two brilliant teams. A fan stood up every now and then to bitch at someone, Rivaldo held on to the ball too long or Klivert lost it and the fans screamed insults.

Valencia seemed to have more of a fight, winning balls in the middle and then playing to a tall lanky Norwegian who was smooth with the ball and strong.

The crowd urged the Barca team, cheering when they escaped out of danger or a tough tackle.

I sat next to a Swede who got a ticket from the same man I did. Although phoning him before the game. Me, passing through the gate on his electronic card for members, season ticket holders; I was a bit concerned as to what kind of ticket I was really getting.

At times Klivert played great through balls to Overmars but also played the play to nobody and out of bounds on a few occasions. He was replaced with fifteen minutes left to ninety thousand jeers and whistles, ducking sadly into the tunnel directly off the field ripping his shirt off, head down. He has had a difficult season I've heard. Zindin came on for him. Petit came on a little earlier and immediately tackled hard and gave the team a lift--changed the game.

Momentum seems to be an integral part of any kind of success. Where you find it seems the hard part, with a substitution, with the crowd, through a player working hard. Finding the flow when their an´t none in any situation is a gift. The ability to instill confidence in the group when things are down and not flowing is a gift.

Klivert lost his focus and had to be taken off. Overmars cut a ball back to him late in the half and he miss hit the ball near the front of the goal, kind of clipping the ball and it trailed off to the side, it was a great chance for Barca. After he missed he tried to win the ball and collided hard with the defender hurting his arm it appeared, over compensating all game for his uneasiness. He was just not comfortable. The crowd whistled.

No space was wasted in the stadium--even my seat, three tiers up, had a good view.

Before the end of the half Barca broke the tie with Rivaldo setting up his left foot with a few feints, first controlling a square pass dug out by Overmars and then hesitating a few moments across the top of the box to smack a low shot into the right corner. The keeper was too late.

Valencia drew even again off a header from an early cross, two minutes into the half, just as I walked up the steps to my seat with a coffee. 2-2 and the crowd restless. The fans tired of the team’s lull, in the past season they lost out in the Champions League and did not win the league, which is expected here. All game long the Barca players seemed to hear the crowd plea for more, trying to please the crowd and play with energy, hurrying the Valencia goal kicks, rushing to retrieve balls out of bounds. A lot of money rested on this game with a place in the Champions League, millions of dollars in TV contracts.

Twenty minutes. Valencia stalled. Arrogantly kicking the ball away on fouls. Their goal keeper, a character it seemed, with his bleached white hair and careless confidence took his time walking to the ball on goal kicks and the fans tried to pelt him with plastic bottles or cans. He stopped and picked them up and arrogantly threw them back against the side paneling and wasted more time.

After a hard two footed tackle by Petit near his own goal, he was great at winning the ball and then playing a simple pass, the tall Norwegian forward lay on the ground holding his ankle. At the other end Barca waited to take a corner. The crowed jeered, and the cart came on with the stretcher, they road quickly to the sidelines where the fans stood and yelled at the injured forward.

With about three minutes remaining Barca found Rivaldo. Overmars, after a quick dribbling run cut the ball to Deboers, who chipped the ball to the outside top corner of the box-- where Rivaldo was posting up. With his back turned to the goal he chested the ball to himself and scored on bicycle kick. Amazing. This must have been one of the most incredible finishes and games in the storied history of the Camp Nou. 

The crowd stood the last few remaining minutes of injury time. Barca battled now for the headers and loose balls and cleared the ball into the corners. A fan rushed onto the field, running towards Rivaldo but was steered away by another player and ran back to his seat, the guards not even taking him away.

The ball came to the Barca coach out of bounds and he juggled the ball a few times before the Valencia coach and their bench players grabbed it and a fight almost broke out--the ref gave both coaches yellows.

The final whistle blew and at first a few people rushed the field and then all, I don't know how the players escaped so quickly. I saw one player give a fan his jersey. The fans took over the field and over the loud speaker they played the team song that seemed to calm the crowd finally. They chanted Rivaldo in a sing song manner. Brilliant game. Rivaldo dios por un dia!

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