1. Part of what makes this result so difficult to take is that we were manifestly the better team for 2/3 of the game. We played well enough in the first hour to score 2 or 3 goals, but really failed to create more danger from our domination, and goals from the danger we did make. As things wore on without a goal, we started to lose control of the game in the minutes before they scored, and lost composure and then our urgency thereafter. In these respects, this game was extremely disappointing. But…
2. All is far from over. Marca points out that we’ve won our last 3 home and away ties when we lost the first leg 1-0. And as noted above, it was striking in the first half how much better we were than them. We were efficient with the ball, relentless without it, and consistently had them defending on their heels (or diving at us with their legs) when moving into the final third. We were unlucky not to get a first goal in the opening minutes, and without taking anything away from Braga’s result, it’s easy to imagine that game could have gone much differently if Fabiano’s header was a few inches different, and it’s therefore easy to imagine next week’s game going our way as well.
3. How this impacts our weekend game with (a likely strengthened) Barca will be interesting to see. Do we defend our lead? Rest key players? Try to score a potentially decisive fourth goal early and then pack the box? That’s a risky (and at times not particularly energy-saving) strategy against a Barca side designed to run you to death with possession and passes. I personally think the worst thing for us would be to have lots of our big guns running after the ball for Barca’s 65% possession of the game. Should be an interesting match this weekend. And also, how huge is that third goal right now? Defending a 2 – 1 lead at the Nou Camp would be a very different prospect for a team playing the game of the season 4 days later.
4. And speaking of that, although we all already understand this, it bears repeating: NOT qualifying for the Champions League would be an enormous disappointment, and a crushing blow to our entire season almost before it even begins. We all understand the importance of regular European play, so I won’t make a list of reasons, but…we’re a week into competitive games, and already we’re behind in a tie that will go a long way in dictating how we view this season in 9 months.
5. Transfer notes from the game: Fabiano DID play, and Marseille has signed some other striker, so if anyone had doubts after Del Nido’s comments last week, it’s safe to say this saga is over, just in time to start the saga of re-signing LuFa. Squallici, who is rumored to be headed to Arsenal, did NOT play, so we may be preparing to say goodbye to him. I personally hadn’t heard anything about this transfer until right after the game, when an article noted he hadn’t played and this was probably a sign the Arsenal deal would happen. As SRH said in the comments, that’s probably terrible news–I don’t care if Fazio is the next Pique, we’ll miss Squallici if he leaves, just as we did last year when he was out for a long time with a broken face. If this transfer happens, I hope it’s for a lot of money and I hope we have another back lined up to replace him, either from within the squad or from elsewhere. (And probably we do–really this is a classic Sevilla transfer so I’m going to take some deep breaths and recite the Monchi’s Men Mantra.)
6. Sevilla in blue jerseys: weird. I struggled to find a decent feed in the opening minutes and thought THEY’D hit the post because I couldn’t see faces on all the blotches running around the field.
Anyway, that’s the news as I see it. Any thoughts on yesterday’s game or its implications for this weekend, next week, and the rest of the year?