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Shame Chelsea Shame

April 29, 2009

From The Unused Substitute on 606: “I had a feeling against Liverpool at Anfield, and I have a feeling again tonight against Barcelona at Camp Nou. Yep, I genuinely believe we’re gonna get a great result tonight.”

From Eagleeeee! on 606: “When Chelsea defend, Ballack is dropping deeper than Essien, which is a bit strange. Essien is almost playing as a forward midfielder with Lampard and Malouda. Hiddink’s masterplan?

Jon in London, via text on 81111: “Cech’s pass completion rate is fantastic! 99% of passes manage to go up field to an opposing player. Skills.”

From Sharon, London, via text on 81111: “Re 1940: Ummm, when do Chelsea start attacking Guus?”

Chelsea assistant boss Ray Wilkins: “We’ve got to be very, very disciplined. We’ve got to get a foothold and get hold of the ball. We’ve been dictated to a little bit by Barca. If Didier gets another chance, I’m sure he’ll stick it in.”

2112: Substitution time – and it’s a shock one too. Juliano Belletti replaces Frank Lampard. He has been very quiet tonight, but still, if you want an away goal…

From Alex, London, via text on 81111: “Chelsea need to be braver. Losing 2-1 is a much better result than 0-0 in Europe.”

2115: Samuel Eto’o slips the ball inside to Thierry Henry, who seems to have his shirt pulled a bit by Jose Bosingwa. No penalty – but it was a very slight tug.

2125: Andres Iniesta goes down clutching his face after taking on Michael Ballack. Slight contact, nothing more, but he immediately turns to the ref and waves an imaginary yellow card. Thankfully, Wolfgang Stark ignores that nonsense and merely gives Barca the free-kick – from which they get nothing.

From anon via text on 81111: “That was the most uninspired, boring and downright pathetic display of anti-football I’ve ever seen. Guus is tactically sound as ever but parking the bus really does nothing for any fan.”

2141: Well, I know it wasn’t the Tuesday goalfest we’ve become accustomed to. In fact, it was quite the opposite no? But you have to congratulate Chelsea on an excellent defensive performance. That is the first time Barcelona have failed to score at home this season. Astonishing.

Astonishing indeed. These are comments on the BBC live comments feed – and each and every single one of them is by a Chelsea fan. I refuse to believe that even the commenter (who should technically be impartial) did not favor Chelsea – see 2115, for example. That was a pretty clear penalty – Henry wasn’t going down, he was pulled down.

And that’s how the game pretty much was. The first time Bosingwa faced Messi one on one, he got skinned and to save a good goalscoring opportunity, took a yellow card for the team. Alex and Ballack were attempting to make the most of their large frames – nothing wrong with that – but they weren’t trying to win the ball as much as they were trying to manhandle the smaller Barcelona players. Iniesta was rightly infuriated late in the second half because Ballack stopped him from getting into a dangerous area with a hand to the face, with the ball gone, and that was a clear yellow (2125). There were lots of bad tackles by Chelsea, lots of attempts to stop Barcelona’s playmakers from getting into a flow, and yes, they might have succeeded, but it was pretty ugly.

Bosingwa gets beaten by Messi for pace

There were some players who stayed out of it. Essien and Terry, for example, were physical, nothing more. Mikel had a great game in my opinion and was probably the most underappreciated player on the pitch. The most disappointing player was Lampard, who disappeared completely today. No kind of impact at all – except for the heavy tackles he made, like the one on Iniesta right in front of goal. I expected him to be a great attacking threat. Essien was my player of the game – he defended AND attacked. The best box to box midfielder in the Premier League I’d say (and no, Gerrard doesn’t play there anymore). Possibly the world too.

So…I’ve already vented most of my frustration but it’s so sad to see supposed championship contenders come to Nou Camp and play anti-football. Chelsea fans must be disappointed to see their team sink to parking the bus – I mean, hoping for mistakes isn’t the only way to win games. There’s always the option of actually going out to play as well. Which is what Guus Hiddink said his team would do. In retrospect, his comments are so hilarious I might as well post them here.

Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink is adamant that the key to overcoming the favourites to lift this year’s Champions League trophy, Barcelona, in the semi-final is to attack as they would against anybody else. The Dutchman insists he is under no illusion about the strengths and qualities of La Blaugrana, but says that the Blues must not change their own style to suit their opponents. The 62-year-old is calling for his players to stand up and be counted when they travel to the Nou Camp on Tuesday evening, and to show the pluck required to see them through to the final over the course of the two legs.

“Chelsea are not a team who can sit back and wait. It’s a team that must play courageously,” Hiddink is quoted as saying by The Daily Mail.

“We know we are facing the best in the world at this moment with their very attractive style. They won’t change that style so much, or in their approach, because it’s the way Barcelona play. We’ve got to put them on hold, put the brakes on them, but it is a big achievement for us to get to the semi-finals.

“To get to the final, we should also take the initiative. If we just wait and get scared by the actions of their strikers or one or two of their midfielders, then you lose this game. My team has to show the guts to play and not wait until we are beaten. It would be wonderful to get to the final.

Match Stats - courtesy ESPN Soccernet

Match Stats - courtesy ESPN Soccernet

I know the responses I’ll get – ‘It was smart play’ or ‘Winning’s winning’ or ‘It’s all about the result’ and I’ll say, that might be the case, but it kills the entertainment value and it’s sad. Isaiah at The Offside had a great post related to this. You do what you gotta do in order to win, and yes, no one remembers the losers, but today it was frustrating to see a supposedly great team, fighting for championships, play with the mentality of a team struggling to avoid relegation. I was hoping for a great attacking game. I would have taken a 3-2 loss as a Barcelona fan over this 0-0. Well actually, maybe not, because then Chelsea would have simply parked the bus at the Bridge and attempted to protect their lead AND away goal advantage. Like Liverpool did two years ago – they were rejoicing like they had won the tournament after losing 1-0 at Anfield (they went through courtesy away goals).

Guus Hiddink was right – his team should have taken the initiative. But they didn’t have the guts to do so, and if I were a Chelsea fan, I’d be gutted.

Forza barca!

UPDATE – COMMENTS

Iniesta: “We tried to play our football. All the while, we tried to attack and score a goal, but when the team infront of you do not want to play football, it becomes complicated.”

Xavi: “It’s a pity that referees do not reward our game of football and punish those who are trying to destroy it. I just have to cry to the heavens when a card is not given for dangerous play but a protest like the one from [Yaya] Toure is sanctioned. The result is unjust. I’m surprised to have faced such an ultra-defensive Chelsea side. They wanted a 0-0 scoreline and they got it.”

Terry: “It’s a fantastic result, and we’ll be ready to go again at Stamford Bridge with our fans behind us. He [Drogba] was unlucky with both [chances], to be honest. We did expect to have a couple of chances.

Hiddink: “Mentally, my team has a lot of courage and a lot of blood that they want to sacrifice. We are pleased with the result here. It’s quite an achievement against a beautiful team who can play beautiful football.”

Guardiola: “Toure was booked for protesting about a free kick. Chelsea repeatedly fouled, with [Andres] Iniesta being kicked a lot. The experts claim that games in the Champions League are decided in the details and this has not helped us. Our aim was clear. We played the ball around and we tried to attack. I do not think that it is fair that the only team that looks to go forward ends up with as many cards as the team that tries to break up play. [Michael] Ballack should clearly have been given a second [yellow card] because Iniesta was about to enter the area. With five or six players sitting back, and more most of the time, and with some physically strong players, we still wanted to go forward. We created chances and gave a good account of ourselves, but football is always difficult when one team does not want to play.

While I am coach of this team we will go out and attack in every game. I do not know if we will lift a cup in the end, but I can assure you that we will go on holiday without any regrets and without people saying we should have any.”

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> Cruyff: “He [Hiddink] had no bigger obsession than to avoid what happened to Bayern Munich [in the quarter-finals]. Certainly, Chelsea are a better side than the German champions but Guus knew better than anybody that if he tried to play Barca’s game, they would leave the Camp Nou in shambles, as Bayern did. In that sense, my compatriot did not deceive anybody when he said that he would not allow what happened to Bayern to befall Chelsea. I do have to confess, though, that I expected them to loosen up maybe after the first 20 minutes, try to initiate counterattacks, or at the very least, try to play football. But I was wrong. They continued with the strategy of frustrating Barca by interrupting the flow of the game, committing fouls and wasting time.
I will not speak of the possible penalty that [Thierry] Henry should have won. I never do and never will. But the referee last night played against Barcelona. He harmed the spectacle of football and he punished the only team who wanted to play. His decisions played a part in Chelsea’s strategy because he allowed them to dictate the pace of the game by putting up with their time-wasting and interruptions, a tactic that does not favour Barca’s footballing philosophies at all.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 29, 2009 9:24 pm

    We’ll get ‘em next time, friend. They can’t hide forever.

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