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).

Comments (13)

  1. Agreed on Alves, although overall he was more effective on the right flank than anyone was on the left .. where the play was non-existent.

    Good points for Chelsea and they really played a disciplined game. Thought Barca really lacked urgency until the last 10-15 minutes or so. They were playing at a bit of a casual pace out there.

  2. Great game, we were lucky today, but I’ll take it!
    I hope we can hold on next week, it will take a performance like inter did 2 years ago to go through(maybe drogba or di matteo will run on the field at the end of the game like mourihno did?)
    At least barca got a taste of their own medicine, i.e: diving

    • With the exception of a few players (Busquets, I’m looking at you), Barcelona is one of the teams that simply does not dive.

      They do complain to the referee far too much. Makes them look petty.

  3. Great game from the blues….did what they had to do to win the game…

    Funny though how the special one, other than that cup win, has never even come close to beating barcelona in the 10 plus matches against them over the past 2 years or so. With all the talent and specialness on that Real Madrid squad maybe they just lack some balls (not footballs).

    Chelsea had the bigger balls on the day…

    • Real Madrid have got blown out in some of those losses to Barcelona, but many of those games have been quite competative, even advantage Madrid, until a moment of indivudal magic gets Barca back on track.
      Barca had the chances today, they just weren’t going in.
      I don’t want to detract from Chelsea, they should be proud, but just wanted to point out that a few of those el clasico matches were only turned by moments of individual magic, maybe even against the run of play. Obviously other times barca whooped their asses.

  4. Ugh, torture for this Barca fan, hope for an all out fight in the 2nd half.
    One question, what do you think these CL results mean for the Madrid/Barca game on the weekend.

  5. Drogba acting makes me wish for a ‘time-out’ period whenever a player is down. If you are injured enough to stay on the pitch for more than 15 seconds, call on themedics and sit on the sidelines for a couple of minuted getting treatment for your phantom injury. It would cut down on the amount of clutching and writhing that ruins the game for people who otherwise might like footy.

    Cole had a great game. Steady defensive play, crucial goal-line intervention, and that fancy footwork – could have been MOM in my opinion.

    The Terry squeeze was hilarious.

  6. Drogba acting makes me wish for a ‘time-out’ period whenever a player is down. If you are injured enough to stay on the pitch for more than 15 seconds, call on themedics and sit on the sidelines for a couple of minutes getting treatment for your phantom injury. It would cut down on the amount of clutching and writhing that ruins the game for people who otherwise might like footy.

    Cole had a great game. Steady defensive play, crucial goal-line intervention, and that fancy footwork – could have been MOM in my opinion.

    The Terry squeeze was hilarious.

  7. Do you think that the media would be praising Chelsea’s defense if Barcelona had managed to put in 2 or 3 of their clear chances. Depending on who you ask, Barca had 8-10 “Big Chances” and did not come through.

    Chelsea would have played EXACTLY THE SAME, but the scoreline would would have been 1-3. Having the EXACT SAME GAME, they could have been called many different names. If not for the uncharacteristically poor finish/luck by Barca, the story lines this morning would be much different.

    Funny thing, sports reporting…

    • You can always speculate, but that’s sports. How many times have other teams gotten lucky in the past? Hundreds of teams get lucky, it just happens. Iniesta’s goal in 2009, had it never gone in, no one would be complaining about Overbo.

      Barca had quite a few chances against inter in the 2nd leg in 2010, but they didn’t convert them, and everyone is praising inter for one of the best defensive performances. Same thing happens here.

      You can’t win a game on chances and possession, sure it makes the stats look nice, but the only stat that matters is the number of goals.

      • That’s what I mean – players are not evaluated on their actions, but only on the results.

        Over a long period of time, things average out. Play Chelsea-Barcelona 10 times with yesterday’s performances and Barcelona win the game 8 out of 10 times. Yesterday was the 1 out of 10 that Chelsea win.

        But instead of evaluating Chelsea for the performance, they are being evaluated by Barcelona’s lack of finishing.

        I merely find it interesting… and occasionally frustrating. Today, it is amusing.

  8. I thought Cahill played brilliantly, made a number of good defensive plays stopping Barca from getting through.

    • Over the span on 90+ minutes. Every defender at this level is likely to make ‘a number of good defensive plays’.

      These same defenders allowed 8-10 big chances. Barcelona missed some of these chances and Chelsea defended some of them. That is a lot of big chances. Barcelona simply could not finish on this particular day.

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