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.
Last night, Chelsea showed once again that when Blaugrana visits West London, they are in for a fight.
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.
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.
You can also find other Soccer Report Extra.com contributors on Twitter by following this link.
Have some thoughts and opinions you want to express? The Training Ground is your chance. Just click on the link.
Please refrain from posting comments that;
The House reserves the right to delete any such comments and to block further participation on the site.