…the Spanish Pele

THREE or four times a season, there’s a football match so absorbing it’s almost like an epic film, as if the play is being manipulated by a director more interested in theatre than sport. Everybody was talking about Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Barcelona today because the drama of last night could have been lifted from a film script capable of engrossing us all. A mismatch in ability, Barcelona should have won with ease but were clawed back as a diehard Arsenal mounted an impossible comeback. In the final moments, Arsenal’s captain Cesc Fabregas shattered a piece of his leg while scoring the equalising penalty and then played on for another five minutes with his limb apparently still broken.

Arsenal will almost certainly be blown away by Barcelona’s brilliance in the return leg next week in Spain but for 90 minutes last night they were part of a Peckinpah-resque drama which neutrals – and even rivals – could not help but admire.

Football clips get snapped off YouTube amid rows over licence infringements, so if you didn’t see it and are trying to conjure up what Fabregas did in those final moments, it was a bit like Pele in the final moments of that match against a team of Nazi henchmen in Escape To Victory. Hopping through the pain, both players summoned a miracle. One was a film, one was real life. Shame, Arsenal could do with Rocky in goal.


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