Thursday, May 18, 2006

Barca gun down the Gunners

After having missed last year's Champions League final (though in retrospect, it's good I missed it since I'm an AC fan) there was no way in which I was going to miss this year's final. Even though none of the teams playing were amongst my favourites, I was praying for a Barca victory. And I was vindicated. Here's the match in brief:

The Shock before the kickoff:
This was more of a shock for the TV viewers in India. I know that ESPN has taken it's Indianisation process very seriously, but for god's sake, why the hell do you need Hindi commentary for the Champions League final? It's not as if there's any Indian playing. But still all of us had to suffer the terrible Hindi commentary throughout the match. And to just annoy you a bit more, they don't turn off the english commentary entirely, they just attenuate it. Hence there's always a hum going on in the background. Many a times I tried to catch it but was largely unsuccessful. And here are some golden nuggets from the Hindi commentary:
1. Aajka yeh antim SANGRAM Arsenal aur Barcelona ke beech: The guy used this phrase so many times that it reminded me of the freedom struggle. Can't you just say 'Champions League final' instead? Nobody's gonna sue you.
2. Arsenal ke subsitute goalkeeper hai Manuel ALUMINA: I guess the guy must be a metallurgy student or something. It's ALMUNIA for God's sake!!! He kept pronouncing it incorrectly during the first half. Thankfully somebody told him about it in the half time interval & hence the correct pronounciation in the second half.
3. Aur ab ball hai Oliver Giuly ke paas: Duh, I thought Giuly's first name was Ludovic. And I'm not even mentioning his constant reference to Giuly as the 'Prince of Monaco'. Hmmm, a sequel to 'Prince of Persia' maybe?
4. Is match ke vijeta to milega UEFA Super Cup me Seville ke khilaf khelne ka mauka: Oh & I thought winning the Champions League was the ultimate aim. Well, then why the hell are all the best players playing? I mean it's not like it's the Super Cup or something.
There was another shock for me before the kickoff. I was expecting to see Lionel Messi playing but suddenly found him missing from the squad. And the commentator refused to shed any light on it. But I guess he must be injured or something. Too sad.

The early chances:
For the first few minutes of the match, I was only half awake. And so it seemed was the Barca defence. And both of us were rudely awakened by two early attempts on goal by Thierry Henry within the first three minutes. They were pretty good chances too, the first one from close in & the other from long range. But Victor Valdes, the Barca keeper, prevented both. A good start for the Gunners.

The no-goal & the sending off:
Samuel Eto'o received a brilliant through pass & just before he could shoot from the edge of the penaly box, Jens Lehmann brought him down. The ball rolled to Ludovic Giuly who slotted it in coolly. Barca fans started celebrating but the referee had already blown the whistle - the goal was disallowed & instead Lehmann was sent off for his horrible tackle and Barca got a free kick. Almunia came on to replace Pires & Ronaldinho took the free-kick There was nothing special about the free-kick though - it was well wide of the goal. The only slightly amusing thing was Ashley Cole's sideways dive to stop the ball from going in. Well worth a second look.

Eboue's dive & the goal:
Emmanuel Eboue, the young Ivory Coast defender, does know a bit or two about acting. He was dribbling outside Barca's penalty box when he suddenly lost control of the ball. So what does he do? He stretches his arm out to make contact with Carlos Puyol's shoulder & immediately falls to the ground. And he does all this in one fluid motion so that the Linesman is totally fooled. Result: A free kick for Arsenal. Henry whips in a cross & Campbell heads it in, totally unmarked. Where was the Barca defence?

Halftime score : Arsenal 1 - Barcelona 0

The second half:
It was pretty predictable. Arsenal went back to what they did best - defending & waiting for a chance to counterattack while Barca went on total attack mode. The stage was set - Arsenal's defence v/s Barca's attack. Barca got a few good shots on goal but Almunia ensured that none got in. He did a good job for a second choice goalkeeper. But it has to be said that Barca's attack lacked that sting which usually characterises them. And both Ronaldinho & especially Deco seemed a bit off-colour

The turning point:
This according to me was Henrik Larsson's introduction. In big finals, experience counts big time & Larsson had a huge impact on Barca's attack. Suddenly Barca seemed like scoring a goal every minute.

The equaliser:
A long ball played into the box, a slight deflection provided by Larsson & a cool finish by Eto'o who had timed his run to perfection. Larsson's touch was so slight that at first I mistook it for a dummy. It was only in the reverse angle that the touch - and it's significance showed. So after 76 minutes it's 1-1. Match on.

The winner:
Barca kept on attacking after the equaliser & in the 81st minute, Larsson once again provided a perfect pass, this time for defender Belletti who converted it. This one though, should have been saved. It went from between the feet of Almunia. I guess second-choices are after all second-choices.

The end:
You'd expect Arsenal to make a final struggle to win towards the end. But such was Barca's dominance that Arsenal had no chance of equalising. In fact Barca had a few chances more but couldn't covert. And then came the referee's whistle & it was all over.
Barca had won the Champions League after a gap of 14 years & their fans went crazy with joy. In fact so did their manager Frank Rijkaard who became the 5th player to win the Champions League as both player & manager. Arsenal could only look on in despair as Barca added the Champions League trophy to their La Liga title. I guess on current form, they are the best team in the world. AC Milan, Juve & Chelsea are close behind but Barca's consistency & attacking style of play puts them ahead. As for Arsenal, Man U & Liverpool - only in your dreams. Which is where I'm going to now.

The Catcher in the Rye

Three questions asked during quizzes on this book, including one at Mood I in the tie-breaker which sent us out, was what it took for me to finally read it. Usually during my whirlwind trips to Nashik I ensure that I have a good book to read. And when I found 'TCITR'(as I would now call it) in the library & when I saw that it was only about 190 pages, I brought it home immediately. And it turned out to be a good decision after all.
At first I was worried that it might be of the serious literature kind - full of heavy stuff that bores you to death. But the first few lines really caught my attention & I decided to give it a try. TCITR is essentially the story of a young 17 year old who gets kicked out of school for the third time & this time decides to do something else in life rather than join another school. At first, the American english & the different (I'd say brilliant) narative style can get a bit difficult to digest. But as you move on you get used to it. The portrayal of the various characters is pretty good & so is the detail of Holden, the main protagonist's thoughts & ideas about the world. But whats best about the book is that it is totally unexpected. Almost the entire book is out of the blue - you really can't predict what will happen next. That's what makes it stand out from other books.
Also, the book has a very good & touching ending. You could say that over the entire course of the book nothing much happens. Well that's true but I believe the events in the books somehow set the stage for further events in the main protagonist's life. In a way, the book mirrors our own lives, how we strive to & often fail in realising what we really should do in our life. All we need is a slight push in the right direction, once we get that, the rest is easy.
All in all, the book makes for great reading. It has been said that ' Some books are to be tasted, others just taken in while some are to be digested thoroughly'. TCITR surely belongs to the last category.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The tide is turning

Actually I should have posted this right after the Electronics paper itself, but decided not to take the risk. But now I really feel that the tide is turning.
Since joining COEP, my exams have been just one bad news after another. Never did I feel good after any of the 15-20 odd papers that I've already written. But suddenly in the so called one-week long PL that we had in the last week of April, I began to feel upbeat about my chances in the exams this time around. Though I yet again managed to start off badly with a below-average Maths paper, it all changed after the Electronics exam.
For those who might not know, I had Electronics as my vocational subject in Std. XI & XII. I never ever studied it properly enough during that period, though my marks portray a different picture. But somewhere down the line in those 2 years, I started developing an interest in the subject. And that interest suddenly boomed in the 2nd sem, when we had electronics as a theory subject. I was thrilled on seeing that there was nothing new to learn, just a revision of what I hadn't learned in the last 2 years. But this time around I took the subject seriously and managed to score a decent 19/20 in the T1. However disaster struck in the T2 with me scoring an unexcusable 13/20 which meant that my chances of getting an EX were almost extinct.
But then all of a sudden, before this sem's exam, I had a gut feeling that my bad run was about to end. And it did come to an end with the Electronics paper. I needed to score an unheard of 59/60 to get an EX. Believe me, in most papers I don't even attempt questions worth that much. But this gave me a new challenge & after a very long time, I started studying very seriously with a single aim in mind - the EX. This meant that I had to go for almost 30 hours without sleep & without decent food, as the mess decided to make an extremely foul dinner that night. But throughout that time, almost all of which I spent studying, I experienced a feeling that was usual earlier on but had become rare in the last year or so. I actually started ENJOYING the subject. So all I wanted to do was to keep studying electronics all day, and night, and that's what I did.
However this story doesn't have a happy ending. It's almost sure that I'll not score 59 in that exam, though it's pretty much sure that I'll get a score above 52-53. But the satisfaction that I got from that exam gave me a huge boost & gave rise to this new feeling - a feeling in which I approach each exam confidently, knowing that I won't screw up. And believe me, it's an awesome feeling. That was the same feeling that I had before today's Applied Mechanics exam. It wasn't as if I was totally prepared for the exam, there are still many aspects of App Mech, the finer points of which elude me, but thankfully I won't have to study the subject again. I was so confident going into today's exam that I was actually reading 'Shantaram' for a long time yesterday - thus inviting some very harsh comments from my friends who thought I'd lost my head. But I read on & approached today's exam quietly but confidently. And though there were no fireworks in today's paper, I managed to achieve my target for today's exam. And with just 2 papers left - Applied Science & Graphics, I have a feeling that this might just be my day, or rather my exam.
There is now a new smell in the air. It's not tension, it's not anxiety & it's not the fear of failure. This is the smell of blood. The blood of the prey. For too long now have the exams hunted me, now it's time for me to be the hunter and hunt for my prey - the exams. Now, the goddess of hunting shall become the hunted & I shall feast on it's flesh.