In what continues--from the past several seasons--to be a two-man scoring competition, the best and second best scorers in football notched Champions League hat tricks over the past 24 hours.
Yesterday, in the first leg of their Group B Champions League tie, Real Madrid beat hosts Galatasaray 6-1 (http://bit.ly/1eq6mRZ) with a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick. The first two goals were sloppy, inside the goalie's box tap-ins, but the third was a wonderful dribbling and shooting display.
That goal saw the right-footed Ronaldo go left to right inside the box, eluding two defenders, and then cut back to his left, to blast the ball high and to the opposite side of the goal for the left-footed score, over the goalkeeper and around a third defender. This was a hard fought and won scoring opportunity by a gifted striker who was not being given any breathing room and was being forced to his weaker leg.
Today, Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as hosts Barcelona FC crushed Dutch club Ajax 4-0 in Group H of the competition (http://bit.ly/19eWMLD). Messi began with a spectacular curling free kick that nicked the post and sailed into the opposite side of the goal for the game's opening score. His third goal was a dribbling speedster's move in the box that froze defenders. The second goal, though, was worth dissecting.
Sergio Busquets led a counterattack down the middle of the field with Neymar close to his left and Messi to the far right. As the Ajax defense inexplicably backed up for about twenty yards without challenging the defensive midfielder, Busquets cut right.
At this point the two defenders to the right might have thought this: the best player in the world is a striker and he is on the right side of the field, to the ball carrying defensive midfielder's right. Maybe, if one of us challenges his attacking prowess while the other one of us makes sure there is no possible pass to the best player in the world on the right, we might be able to stop this counter.
When Busquets, who had by then given Neymar his back and had no choices available but to go it alone or pass to Messi, decided to pass to Messi, the defender closest to Busquets, who had not committed either way, was left woefully out of position. The defender to the right, near Messi, turned to face the diminutive Argentine but thought it wise to over-commit to the striker's right side, albeit the side with the angled but momentarily most direct path to the goal. But, the left-footed striker cut to his left and let loose from inside the box, scoring a goal.
It is amazing to see this happen time and again. Watch any video of Crisitiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Pele or Maradona trying to score with their respective stronger feet when confronted by an opposing defense. For that matter watch how often any of them is or was ever allowed to roam near goal without an escort or two. It never happens or happened. They are and were always forced to either shoot with their weaker feet or come up with a brilliant play if they wanted to use their favored feet. They always have or had opponents on them and those opponents knew which leg was which.
So, why is it that Messi is able to be so free so often and able to shoot with his favored left foot so often? Yes, he is a master of dissimulation and a speedster to boot, but are we not witnessing quite a bit of disingenuous defending against someone who has shattered scoring records and already won four consecutive FIFA Ballon d'Or equivalents. Perhaps that was the thinking when Neymar was purchased--keep an option open for sooner or later defenders will figure Messi out. It will be fun to see how this issue is resolved as the domestic and European seasons develop.