Game in a sentence

Chelsea defend well, take a single, brilliant chance, and go to the Camp Nou with a one-goal advantage after an utterly absorbing Champions League tie.

Observations

  • Barcelona didn’t feature Pique, out with a thigh injury. Adriano was in left back, and Busquets marshalled the middle in front of the back four. It was the usual suspects outside of that, although Iniesta played out left and as Kristian Jack rightly observed was less effective than he might have been playing where Fabregas camped out in the middle.  His pass completion rate was good (79/85) but most were played backward and didn’t lead to solid chances.
  • Chelsea played either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, depending on your perspective (our own Kristian Jack sided with the latter, and by the end that’s clearly what it was). Ramires played a little deeper at times, linking up the midfield, before settling out on the left in the front, and Drogba was the lone front man.
  • Floppy McFlopFace Drogba did one of two things for most of the entire game—fail to get on the onside part of Barcelona’s admittedly very high line, and fall down. A lot. By some counts five or six times before the end of the first 45 minutes. It was Sergio Busquets-esque (and he was rather good this match). But he scored, so MAN OF THE MATCH. And Di Matteo was content to run him down into a bloody nub until the 90+3 minute.
  • One of the reasons Barcelona can play a perilously high line is because Carles Puyol exists (and also because the team in general is splendid in tracking back). Whether Ashley Cole attempting to fly up the left flank, or Drogba attempting to run on an over-the-top “long ball” (busted!), Puyol was faster, more organized, and didn’t have to resort to scything tackles to preserve order in front of Valdez.
  • His counterpart on Chelsea was Ashley Cole, who when not running his guts out on the left flank was passing off cheeky tricks without a flourish and making crucial goal-line clearances, as in the 43rd minute.
  • So, the goal, in the 45′ in the first half. Let’s talk about that, shall we? First it should be said that while this game will go down as a “miracle” blah blah blah, Chelsea’s strategy was very effective, and was helped along by an atypically anemic Barca midfield. The Blues played deep, sat on the ball, and tried to break on Barca’s high line as stated above. This is why Chelsea garnered five offside calls, too. Chelsea enjoyed a few chances this way, but nothing clear cut UNTIL Frank Lampard’s brilliant pass released Ramires on the left of goal, who sent one of the nicest assists you’ll see to a waiting Drogba, who scored.
  • Fabregas had a poor game, and as such was unable to muster the Iniesta-like creativity to cut through the Chelsea defense. Not that Barca too didn’t get their chances (Busquets should have killed the game off in the final minute but skied a Pedro shot that came back off the post), but they were muscled out by Chelsea’s very disciplined back line. Gary Cahill is starting to look very comfortable alongside John Terry.
  • Dani Alves ran alot but his shooting was woeful. Ended more than one play with a final shank to row Z.
  • Cech looked very decent, particularly in a late effort off the head of Puyol in which he had 1 second to change direction and make a game-saving savey save.
  • Proof John Terry is a great human being? A first half replay showed Carles Puyol showing Terry his sore hand in the first half, only for Terry to squeeze it.
  • Anyway, Barcelona will have their grievances even after a very even-keel approach with few annoying handbags (Busquets was so well-behaved I don’t believe it was really him). Because Cahill pushed Iniesta to the ground on the byline in the area in the 25th minute. We want justice.

Three stars

1. Drogba 

2. Ramires

3. Puyol/Cole (cheating, but I did need to put in both).