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Michelle Ackermann

Michelle Ackermann

Born in South Africa, soccer has always been a part of my life, and was pretty much ingrained in my genes. Journalism is my second love in life, and what better way to combine my two favorite things in life than to write about the one thing I am most passionate about. I follow the New York Red Bulls religiously, but have a deep passion for La Liga. This passion is part of the reason why I have moved to Barcelona to pursue my dream of becoming a sports broadcaster.


TANGENTS

Chelsea Shuts Down FC Barcelona in First Leg – Deja Vu All Over Again

Written by on April 19, 2012 | 3 Comments »
Posted in Barcelona, Chelsea, UEFA Champions League

The highly anticipated match between Chelsea and FC Barcelona had all the elements you would look for in a semi-final. Bad feelings from a previous encounter –  the last time the two teams had met in the 08/09, Chelsea suffered a defeat at the hands of the Spaniards in controversial circumstances.  In addition both managers had crossed swords 12 years earlier as players, in the Champions League quarters when Barca won and with many survivors from three years ago everyone had something to prove.

 Drogba: Antics and Acrobatics – Perhaps the most frustrating element of the match was the continual antics and display of diving from the Chelsea striker that repeatedly interrupted the  rhythmic futbol of FC Barcelona. It seemed as though Drogba spent more time lying on the pitch than running.

At one point during the game, one knew when to expect a dive from the Ivorian-striker; if an FCB player was in close proximity, one just had to wait to see him go down, begging for a free kick or a penalty. Once denied, he would quickly pick himself up and jog off, as though nothing had happened.

(Critics always claim that FC Barcelona is a team notorious for diving, but  Barcelona played a respectable game last night, with no acts of dire despair in hopes of a penalty kick.)

Exasperating to say the least, but  Drogba was also the only player score. 

The last time the two teams met it ended badly for Drogba with a three-match ban. But this time the tables were turned and he was  the Chelsea hero.

 Di Matteo’s Secret to Success – As Di Matteo sat on the sideline with a grin on his face, one only wondered what he was thinking. A man referred to as “perfect to lead this rejuvenated Chelsea side”, he once again proved that Chelsea’s glory days are far from over.

With FCB’s possession, one may have thought it only a matter of time before the Catalan giants found the net, but Di Matteo’s side was disciplined. The Chelsea defense was immaculate as they “parked the bus”, and left the Barcelona attack frustrated.

It seemed as though the final ball continually let the Catalans down. Both Alexis and Messi repeatedly failed to find the net. There was also a couple of shots that hit the woodwork, and some dollops of good fortune that came Chelsea’s way.  But nonetheless the Chelsea defense was the most important factor in securing their win.

Barca Defense: A Lackluster Performance – From the kick-off  Barcelona’s possession seemed right on track, 83% in the first five minutes and it only reinforced the notion of FCB as favorites to win the match.

But when the focus shifted to the Barcelona defense things looked different. Guardiola had omitted Pique from the back-line, perhaps due to his  inconsistent form, and after the first twenty minutes, the Barcelona defense seemed frazzled.

Valdes seemed to be doing more work than he had been doing all season, while Alves repeatedly had to wait for Drogba to drag himself off of the ground.

With FCB having 74% possession and 23 attempts to Chelsea’s meager 4, the game would have better ended as a tie. Ironically it was a mistake from Lionel Messi that led to the only goal of the game.  Messi was disposed by Lampard who fed a streaking Ramires. From there it was a square ball to Drogba who got his shot away just before Adriano could get a block in.

The Status Quo – Barcelona has been unable to defeat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in their last five meetings, with Chelsea winning four and the other a draw.

Last night, Chelsea showed once again  that when Blaugrana visits West London, they are in for a fight.

Referees and UEFA – In my last article, I discussed the claim that referees favor FC Barcelona, and that many consider it an impossible task to beat them at home at the Camp Nou.

Last night, alongside a slew of  FCB supporters, everyone was stunned at the refereeing that clearly robbed Barcelona of their chance to equalize, or for that matter, take the lead.

Although some of the handballs were called, there were quite a few that were not. Throw into the mix, a clear penalty by Chelsea defender Gary Cahill who impeded Iniesta and the referee never so much blinked. 

Will everyone ever be completely satisfied with the refereeing? No, but when the stakes are this high, one would certainly hope for precise calls.

What’s Next? – FCB fans were on the edge of their seats until the very last minute, as a hopeful pass in the 92nd minute seemed a final resort, but yet again, Barca would hit the woodwork.

Both Guardiola and Di Matteo seemed hesitant about the second leg, with Guardiola fully aware that it will be an immense task, while Di Matteo emphasized that it is only halftime.

Will the wider pitch at Camp Nou, where greater teams have tried and failed be enough to give Barcelona the needed edge for a second leg and overall win?

We all wait patiently till next Tuesday night.

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3 responses to “Chelsea Shuts Down FC Barcelona in First Leg – Deja Vu All Over Again”

  1. Ed Gomes says:

    Somewhere, Mourinho was smiling if not smirking. Anything to make Barca’s road tougher for El Classico is of great help. He was also probably thinking how his teachings at Chelsea still hold, even after the managerial carousel. Even though they got him ousted, Terry and the vets (minus Drogba) have gone back to what they learned from him. Tactics for sure, but maybe more importantly mental toughness.

    I am a self proclaimed Busquets hater (Von Bommel is not far behind), and it irks me when I’ve even heard people call him the lovable cheater. But let’s not let up on our criticisms of floppers, divers, stallers just because it’s Drogba. Chelsea and EPL fans will somehow praise his and the teams tactics. The same people that will kill another team for doing exactly the same. Drogba was brilliant is slowing down Barca’s attack with all his rolling around.
    The question I have, is why won’t the ref give out a card to someone who keeps rolling on the ground stalling and then gets up and runs like nothing is wrong, time after time. Maybe after the third time he can warn the player and then issue a yellow?

    Some fans go nuts about the parking of the bus, and why do teams look so awful in these matches. Frankly these teams are not here to entertain us. They have made it to the semis and now they just want to win it, no matter how they may look. Did we forget how disappointing the WC Final was. Especially after great matches with Uruguay and Paraguay?
    Finals of big tourneys are usually very disappointing, but now it seems as if the semis are becoming much of the same. The stakes are so high, that adventurous play is fearful.

  2. First legs on semi are almost always the same – disappointing. Usually opens up in second leg because it is all or nothing by then.

  3. Ed Gomes says:

    I just heard Eric Wynalda, who I usually like, on The Herd (Colin Cowherd) and you couldn’t have had a worse preview or lead up to such an important match as El Classico. He was shockingly bad at trying to get across the significance of the match in Spain and/or even around the world. Over 400 million are expected to be watching, and League Title in the balance, nevermind the possible CL Final.
    He did mention Messi and his greatness, but even then he went about his size and comparing him to 6′ 300 lb benching guys.
    So many things to discuss yet you came away with nothing. You can actually say that he provided bad information and didn’t get any points across.
    The only thing he got right was that we will look back ten years from now and realized how great of an era this has been. What is being done by Messi and Cristiano (I mention their names, he didn’t) will truly be appreciated.
    Wow, what a disservice he provided to his sport.

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