By Dominic Vieira, writing from Lisbon
A game we’ve all seen before, where Barcelona persistently tried to find the net and were unlucky, again. The consequences of an attacking overload were suffered at the back as an advanced defensive line lost them Europe’s most wanted crown. Chelsea are going to Munich.
In each of the past 5 years, FC Barcelona have reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. In 2008, 2010 and now 2012, the visiting side wore white and blocked Barcelona’s path to the final. Under Pep Guardiola, we’ve seen almost two identical matches against Mourinho’s Inter Milan and di Matteo’s Chelsea; two battles when Barcelona had to win by 2 goals, two encounters completely dominated by the hosts, two matches when the visitors
played defended with ten men, and most importantly, two matches when they ‘parked the bus’. In fact, the Greek national team which incredibly and unexpectedly won the Euro 2004 could almost be classified as an attacking team when compared to these sides.
Chelsea played like Inter did in 2010, collectively defending for 90 minutes. They were compact, closed, and conservative.
Despite Cahill leaving early on and a disgraceful Terry sent off, Chelsea were solid, especially the experienced Cole and Ivanovic. And like they did last week, the team played for the counter attack and subsequently, it worked. Ramires scored a marvelous goal and Torres was in the right place at the right time to kill the game.
But unlike the Inter match, Barcelona could have won at the Camp Nou and Stamford Bridge; they had the chances. Although they were restricted, they had the chances. Chelsea had 3 shots on target and scored two of them, the other attempt was Drogba’s shot struck behind the halfway line, but the point is that they capitalized their chances, again. And like Julio Cesar two years ago, Petr Cech had a grand game pulling off 3 big saves.
But Messi, the man Barcelona can always rely on, football’s Michael Jordan, left his scoring boots at home - in 8 matches he’s yet to score against Chelsea. Despite assisting Iniesta, the Argentine should have finished his chance in the first half and was unlucky to hit the post and miss the penalty in the second. But that’s football.
However, Messi is not to blame and Guardiola rightfully defended the superstar in the post-match conference:
“We’ve gotten to where we are today thanks to this kid. More than ever I want to thank him for what he’s done for us. His competitiveness, how he pushes us all to be better. I’ve got no doubt that he’s going to experience a few difficult hours now because he’s a competitive guy but this is what is beautiful about football.
Focusing on the other end of the field, Barcelona’s defence slipped up, which is natural for a team which was consistently forced to push men up the pitch in order to break Chelsea’s solid white wall. In their last 3 matches, the ones which defined their season, Barcelona’s defence has been slow, caught out of position, and as we saw with Ramires’s wonder goal, losing focus. A team cannot let their opponent score in the dying seconds, especially at a stage where they were qualified for the final, Barcelona achieved their challenge, they were 2-0. This is the club’s weakness.
Despite injuries plaguing the back four, Guardiola made a big mistake at the start of the season by investing all the funds in 2 players, Sanchez and Fabregas, leaving the club with a world class defence, but restricted with options. But it’s certain that this is the area which will be strengthened over the summer.
Moving forwards, this is not the end of an era by any means. Like in 2008 and 2010 when Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League, they reached the final and won it the following year. And they’ll be one of the favourites to play in Wembley next May.
“Sometimes you smile and sometimes it’s your turn to be sad.” Pep Guardiola eloquently summarises the beautiful game in the post match interview.
The irony which revolves around Chelsea is that in the seasons when they reached the Champions League final, both Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas, two talented and winning managers, were sacked. Avram Grant deserves a great amount of respect and the same now applies to di Matteo who has been tremendous since taking over after the 3-1 defeat in Napoli. Congratulations!
However, Chelsea will be playing in Munich without 5 key players and all a fan can hope for is that the final will be a victory for football.
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- bilmezadam answered: how was the ref?what do u think about him?was he good?
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- bjorn-higgins answered: damn right Barcelona lost, there a good team but Chelsea is the better team hands down
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- brewinggeographer answered: For all of Barca’s deserved reputation as a creative side, the total lack of creativity in attacking Chelsea/Inter’s defense was striking.
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- punya313 answered: Barca can keep saying they deserved to go through, well basically they were incapable of taking any chance they had. Chelsea deservedly won.
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- ll-coolm answered: just perfect
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- sengafantouche answered: And they won. That’s about as simple as it should be.
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