Murray meltdown under microscope
BARCELONA — Barcelona have rediscovered their appetite and are dazzling in attack again as coach Luis Enrique’s tactics are starting to pay off.
A month ago Luis Enrique was in the eye of a hurricane over an alleged bust-up with star-player Lionel Messi and his days at the helm of the team appeared to be numbered.
The former Barca player had been brought in after a season where they had failed to win a major trophy and put in charge of a new project that saw money ploughed into new signings, including Luis Suarez.
However, the team had failed to unite under Luis Enrique who continually chopped and changed his team as well as his tactics.
They looked uncertain especially defensively and needed their star-players to get them out of trouble with their individual skills.
Many fans questioned whether the confrontational coach, who also had a difficult relationship with the media, was the right man for the job.
Since the defeat, though, against Real Sociedad in the first game back after Christmas, Barca have had a remarkable turnaround and they have been winning games with panache.
They have restored the desire and hunger reminiscent of Barca’s golden spell under Pep MELBOURNE — Andy Murray blamed Novak Djokovic’s “cramping” in their Australian Open final on Sunday for throwing him off his game but that could hardly explain the meltdown that saw the Scot lose 12 of the last 13 games.
After levelling at one-set apiece, Murray led 2-0 in the third but collapsed to lose the match 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 6-3 6-0 under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, his fourth defeat in Australian Open finals and third to Djokovic. Guardiola with 29 goals in eight league and cup games.
Barca followed up their elimination of Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup last week with a 3-2 defeat on Sunday of an in-form Villarreal, who came to the Camp Nou on the back of an 18-match unbeaten run.
The coach again tinkered with his side by leaving out Xavi and Ivan Rakitic, and giving a rare chance to Rafinha, but the tactic worked and the win saw them continue their pursuit of Real Madrid, who are a point ahead at the top of La Liga.
“The team is ready to overcome whatever is put against them in a game. In the Calderon we came back from a goal down and we did it twice against a strong Villarreal side,” Luis Enrique told a news conference.
“The game demonstrated the importance of being balanced and if not you pay for it.”
The Catalan side responded well both times they went behind with a ruthless attack led by Neymar and Messi.
Neymar is flourishing in his second season at the club while Messi appears to have rediscovered his motivation and is playing once again with a smile on his face.
Meanwhile, Enrique has told Neymar to carry on regardless after the Brazilian re-
The Serb tumbled to the court a couple of times early in the third set and appeared to suffer cramp, but after saving a break point at 3-3, the top seed stormed to his fifth Melbourne Park title without any sign of physical distress.
“The third set was frustrating because I got a bit distracted when he, like, fell on the ground after a couple of shots,” twice grand slam champion Murray told reporters.
“It appeared that he was cramping, and then I let that distract me a little bit. “That’s what I’m most disappointed about, not so much the fourth set because I think, especially at the end of it, he was just going for everything, and it was going in. But the third set was more frustrating for me.” Murray was asked whether there was a deliberate element to Djokovic’s struggles, with the Serb almost limping across the baseline between points early in the third set.
“I would hope that wouldn’t be the case. But, yeah, if it was cramp, how he recovered from it, that’s a tough thing to recover from and play as well as he did at the end,” Murray said.
“So, yeah, I’m frustrated at myself for letting that bother me at the beginning of the third set, because I was playing well, I had good momentum, and then just dropped off for like 10 minutes and it got away from me.” ceived criticism for provoking Atletico Madrid players with his “nutmegging and talking”.
Juanfran and Fernando Torres argued with two-goal Neymar at halftime in Barca’s last week’s midweek King’s Cup quarterfinal victory while opposition captain Gabi Fernandez was red-carded after a fracas in the tunnel.
Atletico substitute Ruben Cani said after the game that “one day he will have problems for his style of play, the nutmegging and talking”.
But Enrique defended his player, saying: “You have to consider the player and the culture from where he is from.
“Brazilians look to enjoy themselves playing football and it is the same for all the Brazilian players at the club. We are in a strange country where people are more offended by a nutmeg than by five dangerous tackles.
“Hopefully he can be remembered as a great player and he is certainly at the right club at the moment to achieve that. It would be great if it happened.
“Messi is the best player in the world and he has put the marker very high if he is to achieve that. If you take away football, samba and so on then a Brazilian is no longer Brazilian.”
Though initially roared on by the Rod Laver Arena crowd as he fought his way back into the match, Murray lost the support of the terraces during his capitulation when he hammered his racquet into the hard court.
Having chastised himself throughout the opening sets with his typical fiery monologues, his final surrender was quiet as he appeared to go through the motions like a lamb heading to the slaughter. It wasn’t long before the criticism started. “He needs a good, hard look in the mirror and to get his head together,” Australian former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash told the BBC.
“He has not put up a great fight. He hasn’t. Don’t put a rose tint on this.”
The meltdown will inevitably raise comparisons with his 2011 final loss to his friend and fellow 27-year-old Djokovic, when he was trounced 6-4 6-2 6-3 in a listless display.
Murray’s run to the final was his first in a grand slam since his Wimbledon title in 2013, but the manner of his exit may haunt him through to the next major at Roland Garros.
“Success is being happy. It’s not about winning every single tournament you play, because that isn’t possible,” he said.
“Like I said, I’m happy with everything that I put into the event.
“So I can’t be disappointed with that because I gave my best effort ... I just wish I could have done a little bit better in the third set tonight.”
Neymar gets past two Villarreal defenders on Sunday