I don’t know whether to congratulate Chelsea for deactivating the explosive Barcelona attack. Or chastise them for playing a very negative, defensive brand of football that has nothing to do with the reasons why we call this the beautiful game.
The reality is that if Chelsea played their usual brand of attacking football, they would have been torn apart by the attacking prowess of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o.
The hope is that on their return leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will decide to play football. My concern is that they’ll play a defensive style — not as anti-football as their Camp Nou performance — and try to hang on for that solitary goal or for penalties. Don’t expect a classic in west London.
Other than a couple of chances for Didier Drogba in front of goal, this was a dire match from Chelsea who were playing very negative football to stifle the Barcelona attack. The strategy worked flawlessly. With Chelsea’s aggressive tactics, they definitely outmuscled Barcelona and were lucky to have no players red-carded.
The advantage now must go to Chelsea to win the second leg of the semi-final. Unfortunately, most of the neutral soccer fans around the world won’t be hoping they’ll win. Otherwise, we may see another negative performance from Chelsea in the final, as they produced last year in Moscow.
A few observations about last night’s game:
- The concussion that Henry experienced after he was hit in the head by Alex took the French striker out of the game. Other than a half chance in front of goal, he was completely invisible for the remainder of the match.
- Lionel Messi was a shadow of himself and was marked out of the game. He produced a similar performance in the Champions League two years ago when Liverpool reduced him to a minor actor in the game.
- Dani Alves would not fit into the English game. His theatrics after he was fouled were despicable and exaggerated.