Many in the press predictably went with the “Lucky Chelsea” angle (Andres Iniesta called the loss “unjust”) after their slim 1-0 victory over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge yesterday in the Champions League first leg semifinal, but as with all “luck” in football, it was built on a bedrock of boring preparation and intelligent utility on the part of the manager. Part of that was Roberto Di Matteo putting out a team and a formation that suited the team’s innate strengths. So far the interim-manager has made a strong case to drop the “interim” by bringing out the best in Chelsea’s still-considerably talented “Old Guard.”
For example, John Terry looked very comfortable at the back alongside Gary Cahill, who is now settling into the team nicely. Ashley Cole put in an energetic performance at left-back, Cech made a crucial save in the second half, Lampard was precise in his long passes up the pitch (which freed Ramires on the left side of the pitch to send a gorgeous floored pass to the waiting feet of Drogba), and Drogs was, well, Drogs. Not vintage, often offside, and usually making love to the pitch. But he chewed up time (and the scenery, and the grass) even as he sometimes gave Carles Puyol something to do.
In other words, while Chelsea are the lesser team than Barca across all-possible-worlds, it’s hard to see how they could have done any better against a club that registered 24 shots to Chelsea’s 4. Andre Villas-Boas’ mistake was to play for a future that had not yet arrived; Di Matteo, uncertain over his future with the club, is forced to work with an imperfect now. There is no romance in this approach, just preparation. As Drogba succinctly put it, “That’s football and I think we were a bit lucky. You have to work for luck to come and to happen. We worked a lot. We worked hard.”
The Montreal Impact draw DC United 1-1. So baby steps.
Vancouver Whitecaps lose 1-3 to the SC Sporting Kansas City Wizard Royals.
David De Gea says his United career was “saved” by his performance against Chelsea in February.
Premier League to give a once over to Reading’s Russian backers.
Daily Mail with some speculation on a £30 million bid for Athletic Bilbo Baggins’ Fernando Llorente.
Man United are rich! Filthy, stinking rich!
Wigan’s Victor Moses is a free man.
Kenny Dalglish is confident Roy Hodgson will get a warm reception on his first return to Anfield. They may ask him to come back.
LeBron James’ quest to ruin Liverpool FC continues.
Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta suffers cruciate ligament damage.
Italian Football Federation vice president wants Di Natale in the Euro 2012 squad. Methinks he might be.
Udinese would love to have Del Piero…
Thousands arrive for Piermario Morosini’s funeral service.
Raul to leave Schalke. MLS waits in the wings?
Imagining Bundesliga relegation candidates as children.
Bits and bobs
Remembering a DC United fan.
Just because Chelsea are not Barcelona does not mean they play “anti-football.”
And that, give or take, is the story so far…