The marathon of the Champions League Final is over, and what an ordeal it was. Frankly I’m embarrassed by what I witnessed. Embarrassed because of the lack of sportsmanship shown by both sides. Embarrassed because this was supposed to be the final that provided an entertaining example of what English football can be. Instead what we saw was a match full of fouls and lacking in flair. If the match had ended after extra time, the supporters (and TV viewers) would have felt cheated. It was mostly a dire 120 minutes of football.
The final deteriorated into a shambolic game resembling more of a wrestling event than a football match. The effect that the field had on the spectacle was embarrassing with more players getting leg cramps than there were exciting moments in the entire game.
Sure, if you’re a Manchester United or Chelsea supporter, it would have been more entertaining. You would have been caught up in the emotions in the match. But for a neutral fan, it was a painful to watch.
Particularly troubling was the lack of sportsmanship shown by both sides during the match. There were the scuffles in the second half of extra time. There were the rough tackles and elbows thrown that were over the top. There was the kicking the ball out of play to help a player get treatment, but the opposition unsportingly not giving the ball back to the other team, and kicking it into touch instead. The list goes on and on. I’m sure the greats of English football, legends like Sir Stanley Matthews, would have been appalled by the actions of players from both sides.
There were glimmers of brilliance. Frank Lampard’s lob that hit the crossbar. Didier Drogba’s shot that hit the post. John Terry’s goal line clearance from Ryan Gigg’s shot. Petr Cech’s heroic double saves earlier in the game from Carlos Tevez’s header and then Michael Carrick’s shot.
When the penalty shootout finally arrived to put the game out of its misery, it was easy to be swept away by the suspense of the spot kicks. The memory of the previous 120 minutes of dullness faded away as the drama of Cristiano Ronaldo and John Terry missing their targets captivated the audience. Then with one final kick, Nicholas Anelka hit the ball to his left and Edwin Van der Sar dove to knock the ball away from goal. Victory Manchester United. Commiseration Chelsea.
As one of the readers mentioned, this match will fade away in history. Supporters of the game years ahead will remember who won the match but their memory of the episodes that happened during the game will remain fuzzy. This was a game that failed to come even close to all of the hype that was created before the match. It’s over, and thank god for that.