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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Chelsea Held To Draw At Camp Nou

Written by on April 24, 2012 | 16 Comments »
Posted in Barcelona, Chelsea, UEFA Champions League

Ok the headline is tongue in cheek but after tension like that perhaps a bit of lightheartedness is called for. The graphics below are not intended to explain how Chelsea got the result they needed but are simply some things that stood out for me.

First of all here is one of the more basic statistics. Attempts on goal.

Lots more attempts from Barcelona but just as in the first leg Chelsea did an outstanding job of blocking many of them.

Apart from Drogba’s foul on Fabregas that led to the penalty kick that Messi missed and Terry’s idiotic action on Sanchez the discipline shown by Chelsea was remarkable. Only 10 fouls conceded and 80% of them in non threatening areas. When you consider the pressure from Barcelona it is a phenomenal statistic.

Drogba was magnificent in both games and when he was not dropping back to defend he was offering the Chelsea defense an option  and outlet. The graphic shows the positions he took up for passes in the two legs.


Guardiola has spoken about Barcelona’s need to have to ball. But the converse is not true necessarily.  Just because they have the ball it doesn’t mean that the opposition has no hope. Three consecutive defeats and all with a massive possession advantage for Barcelona but no cutting edge.

Barcelona look to Iniesta and Xavi to open up defenses but this illustrates how few of their passes actually got behind the deep lying Chelsea back four (or eight).

On a night when Messi had an absolute stinker it is no consolation for Barcelona fans to know that he won every one of his four tackles.

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16 responses to “Chelsea Held To Draw At Camp Nou”

  1. John Bladen says:

    Classic Drogba… he plays a gigantic role for the club, yet still behaves so poorly that you wish for football’s sake he hadn’t been playing…

    Chelsea defended very well over both legs, no qualms. They took the only three good chances they created over 180 minutes, whereas Barcelona hit the woodwork what, four or five times?

    Hard to argue Chelsea is the better team as they defended for practically two full games, but they are the winners and go through. FCB might put it down to cruel luck, but frankly their passing wasn’t up to it’s usual standards in these two games. Some of that can be creditted to Chelsea for tight (and fair) defensive play. But not all.

    With several of Chelsea’s major players out for the final (hard to imagine Terry not being banned as well, given his violent conduct) on accrued yellows, it’s likely to be a a near-walk through for either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.

    Question: If it had been a Mourinho lead Inter or Real who put 8-10 men behind the ball and defended for two full games against Chelsea or Man U, would the English press be gloating over the “great result” the way they will be/are?

    I think we’d be calling it anti-football, don’t you?

  2. J Rob says:

    The decisive difference over the two legs was the impact of the world’s greatest player Lionel Messi. It was his loss of possession which led directly to Chelsea’s (only chance) and decisive goal at Stamford Bridge and his missed penalty which a made a critical difference tonight. Re: the latter: if converted Chelsea would have had to chase a goal with only ten men on the field.

    I feel for both Guardiola and all of the Barcelona team. They were demonstrably the better team over two legs. The timing of Chelsea’s goals in both legs couldn’t have been worse from their perspective. Rarely have Barcelona been so poor in front of goal. They created easily enough chances to win both games.

    Interesting to note how mixed their form is against English sides over the last several seasons. I wonder how many Man Utd fans wonder if a more negative approach might have been more successful in the last two Champion’s League finals. Chelsea, Liverpool (twice) and Man Utd have all beaten Barca over two legs in the Champion’s League over the last 7/8 seasons.

    As for Chelsea there must be many people who have had to challenge their own convictions about their aging team. The same side that seemed on the verge of been geriatric has-beens two months ago are now in a Champion’s League final having beaten Barcelona over two legs in the most draining of circumstances.

  3. Carmelo Gabriele says:

    I could not agree more with John Bladen, on the balance of things Chelsea deserved to go through & as well Barca can feel hard done by… but then again it’s a consequence of their style, flare & skill that they feel hard done by. I have not witnessed a Barca loss where in retrospect they have not felt they should have put one of the many dozens of chances away to seal it comfortably… I also agree with Cesc in his post match comments, this who they are, Pep knows it better than any one manager on the planet. They tried to buy tall forwards (Zlatan) & imposing center halves (Dmitri Chygrinskiy) but they do not in this cohesive culture of football.

    Watching the game, did you find yourself thinking, I can picture Tony Pulis yelling at the “tele” to Alves & co. cross the ball!! bring on the aerial bombardment!! LOL !

    I second the thoughts on the media portrayal of the Chelsea effort…. watch every English speaking journalist portray it as courageous & brave. I made the same observation a couple of years ago when SkySports where raving about Rangers drawing 0-0 under McCleish at Ibrox with Barca… It is inevitable, unfortunately I researched & studied International Communications & media portrayal, It is easier to write headlines pursue rhetoric on air that only enhances the popular perception of your customer, Americans & Britons wanna hear their team were heroic & brave, Italian fans could not care two shits, they rather hear “organized” “disciplined” “tactically astute” & most importantly that their team won. I watch every weekend when I switch between the Italian Rai International coverage & Fox Soccer… Its about ur customers & the culture…. if “La grande Inter” of Helenio Herrera does it or Mourinho’s Inter, it is instantly labelled anti-football & ugly… where to be honest with you, when that coward Busquets got Thiago Motta sent off & Inter played with 10, that was more heroic & brave than tonights display by Chelsea, I more lauded & on the whole, probably a more talented team than my Inter that won the treble under Jose Mourinho…


  4. Peter Williams says:

    Wait, I’m confused?!? We were all lead to believe that Barcelona was the greatest assembly of talent in the history of the universe. They couldn’t possibly be beaten by any collection of human beings, let alone a sixth place team. Well, its the league season that is the true test of talent… wait, they aren’t going to win La Liga either. How can this be? Messi is the unquestioned greatest athlete in World History. He never has a bad game, it is impossible for him to ever miss a penalty. … Well, maybe the fawning over Messi and Barcelona will be toned down now, but I doubt it.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    First let me congratulate Barca fans and organization for staying classy. The fans cheered their team after the match, maybe realizing the incredible run they’ve had and good fortune as well. The organization for not shutting the lights and turning the sprinklers on like they did verse Inter and Real in previous years. Maybe that’s a Mourinho thing.

    As for the match, incredible. It takes a great deal of mental fortitude to be able to maintain that kind of composure and discipline for a whole match of such significance. They showed cracks, Lamps losing it verse Cesc several times comes to mind. But let me add that Terry doesn’t have the mental fortitude. He bailed on his squad and worst of all had one of the stupidest excuses ever. Sanchez jumped back into his knee. Really? You can bet the farm if Chelsea lost, that would have continued to be the excuse and rhetoric, along with ref issues, instead of the issued apology. The great Captain could have cost his club a CL Final and title.
    Let me add that I, like everyone else, truly thought Chelsea was done once their Captain/Manager was sent to the dressing room.
    I know DiMateo deserves credit, but have you seen a more clueless looking manager out there. Avram comes to mind in regards to the look. I was never an AVB fan, since he was as much a product of a very good team as he was a good manager. Let me add, the criticizing of his finger pointing and direction from the sideline is ridiculous. I don’t see pundits laugh at Pep and others when they do it. That being said, it clearly looks as if DiMateo let’s the vets run the squad. Terry has given direction behind him and he has looked back for help more than once. Yesterday I found it funny seeing Boswinga with his arms out asking DiMateo what he wanted after Terry went out. The answer took a long while.

    As for Barca, they’ve looked wasteful in more than one occasion this season. I wonder if fatigue is becoming and issue for Messi. He’s young but there’s a lot of miles on those legs. They’ve looked worn down.
    I still can’t believe that Piqué was allowed to continue to play after being knocked out cold. You can see Puyol guiding him after the incident, but he was clearly not right. They didn’t show it, but I think that he just walked off the field while the ball was in play.

    Called what you will, but yesterday was still a very entertaining match. Even if the outcome was different, it would have still been a great watch.
    What I wonder about is how many Real players will be out of the CL Final as well. They have numerous players on yellows. For that matter, Bayern has a few as well.
    Incredible if both Spanish clubs don’t make the final.

  6. Gus Keri says:

    In the last 3 games, Barcelona had shown signs and symptoms of what is now known as LIVERPOOLITIS. It’s a disease characterized by dominance in possession, wastefulness in front of the goal, multiple hits of the woodwork and superstars who are not delivering.

    Many people (and pundits) called what Chelsea did yesterday anti-soccer or anti-football. I disagree strongly.

    Anti-soccer is reserved for teams that relay on aggressive physical challenges, frequent fouling (professional and non-professional), diving, shirt-pulling and time-wasting tactics.

    What Chelsea had shown was a masterful defensive display without any of the dirty tactics mentioned above.

  7. Rob says:

    Barcelona’s record against English clubs is superb in the last seven to eight years. They’ve won all three finals against English clubs. In two-legged knock-out stage ties, they lost to Liverpool on away goals rule, lost to United, have beaten Arsenal at least twice if not three times and have split with Chelsea out of four times played.

    As for Liverpool beating Barca twice, what are you talking about? We played them in 02-03 season in second group stage and they won the group…or perhaps the UEFA cup semi’s of 00-01? Either way, Barca has dominated English Clubs when it comes to the Champions League.

  8. John Bladen says:

    Gus: You missed the 80 mins Drogba was on the pitch did you?

    Chelsea defended well. They took the only chances they created in either leg, while Barcelona wasted theirs and didn’t defend well at all. They deserved to win, but Chelsea didn’t shrink from their share of fouls and time wasting either.

    Liverpool dominating in possession? Against Wolves?

    J Rob: Messi wasn’t at his best, obviously. To say that the loss is solely down to him is not fair IMO. Several FCB forwards and MF had very good chances on goal (even given the fact that all 9 chelsea players rarely left their own penalty area). Few were converted in either leg.

    You can certainly put the ‘turnover’ in L1 on Messi, but it happened in the Chelsea half. It isn’t Messi’s fault that nobody behind him could or would cut Drogba off.

    In the end, you win as a team and lose as a team. FCB is no different. They’ve lost matches before and will do so again. They may need to upgrade at a couple of spots (they gave away three clear breaks and CFC put them all on the scoreboard) to stay in the top four in the world, but those writers suggesting this is “the beginning of the end” are as wrong now as they were in 2010.

  9. Ed Gomes “What I wonder about is how many Real players will be out of the CL Final as well.”
    the answer to that question is all of them.

  10. John Bladen says:


    Never read the comments of SRE while watching a PVR’d game!
    Damn these work related delays in football viewing…


  11. sorry but you do need to watch it

  12. John Bladen says:

    No worries, Bobby. I should know better than to surf while watching a recorded event….

    I realize this may be an admission of shadenfraude, but I could watch Ronaldo miss penalties all day long and not get tired of it.

    Have you seen Kaka play a worse game than he did today? I don’t see Real much, but I’m told he hasn’t been anything like value for money for a couple of years now…

  13. Gbenga says:

    Excellent analysis Bob… Great stuff… Barcelona weren’t sharp enough with their passes and could have won the game if they had taken shots from outside the box or least be more daring. They were looking for the perfect setup to score and it didn’t work… Credit to Chelsea for defending with full resolute and their strategy of containment worked in the end…

  14. Ed Gomes says:

    Great job by Bayern yesterday. They were great over two legs.
    As for Cristianos miss, what miss? What I saw was a great save by Neuer. By the way Neuer has been been much maligned by Bayern faithful. The fans did not want his sigining, and booed him often.

    A few other things in regards to Chelsea.
    I know you need to back a teammate, but can Chelsea players tone it down a bit in regards to Terry.
    – He wasn’t being malicious, he should be able to lift the trophy, he should be allowed to play.
    Where do we draw a line in the malicious quotion. I guess Zindane shouldn’t have gotten a red either.
    Lift the trophy? What happened to the underdog tag? If they do win, maybe he can carry it out of the plane at Heathrow.
    This only comfirms my opinion of him being the current manager and not DiMateo.
    As for the card rules changing, people need to calm down. The current rules are in place so players can’t go nuts and foul like crazy and not get punished.

    As for class, just go read Ramires comments in regards to his card. He explained how he lost his cool, and acted inappropriately towards the ref. He said the moment got to him. No excuses, and he apologized to the club.
    Terry had already stated an excuse even before the game was over. The only reason he backed off it was due to them winning. Replay of stupidity wouldn’t have changed his excuse.
    Yes, I’ve always disliked the guy. But please tell me how I’m wrong.

  15. Alberta Gooner says:

    Great analysis, Bobby.

    Guardiola is a phenomenal coach and tactician but it surprised me to see him persist with Puyol, Mascherano and Busquets with 10-man Chelsea offering so little attacking threat in the second half.

  16. John Bladen says:

    Ed: When talking about the likes of Kaka, Messi & Ronaldo, you really expect their penalties to be placed in a spot where no goalkeeper can get them. If they are the elite sharpshooters they are paid to be, those balls should be well into the corner of the net.

    In both Ronaldo & Kaka’s case, they were yards away from the corner, meaning a fine save from Neuer (which it was, I agree) could stop it. If they put the ball out where it’s supposed to be, even Neuer has no chance.

    Also agree about the card rules. They have been in place for years. If players are too emotional (or just too stupid) to watch their step when they know they are within TWO yellows of the ban (let alone one), they have no-one to blame but themselves.

    That said, if UEFA is contemplating changes, I wouldn’t campaign for changing the amnesty date (as FIFA does) so much as reducing the number of yellows that result in a 1 game ban.

    Doing so would reduce the likelihood that a ban is triggered for the final, and increase the likelihood that the ban would be served earlier (assuming a static fouling rate overall, which a lower limit might also affect).

    IF the issue really is that “players are missing in a showpiece event”, then having them miss qf or sf matches would be preferable (also, they would sit out one leg, not the single game final).

    The bottom line is whatever number of yellows is picked, players will still reach that number (often after giving away stupid fouls in the early going) and be excluded, then show the crocodile tears on camera.

    I thought the ref yesterday did a good job. He calls things far more closely than I would (both PK’s awarded were soft IMO), but he was consistent and fair, which is all the players can really ask for. It wouldn’t have bothered me if he’d carded Pepe for faking, but he did well overall.

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