Chelsea v Barcelona: The Beautiful Game Triumphs

I had said before the contest between Chelsea and Barcelona would be a contest of league styles. Barca had yet to face an English side and this would be a vastly different context for the Spanish giants. Chelsea would not allow them the space for the same kind of free-flowing football they enjoy at home in La Liga.

The first leg displayed what I meant (although I didn’t expect Chelsea to play such a negative game, practically lining up ten men in the mouth of the goal alongside Petr Cech) as some of the best looks Barca had on goal resulted in them getting dispossessed when they spent too much time on the ball. Henry hesitating before a decent chance in the box. Messi getting shut down by Boswinga. And so on. Barca are used to more freedom in La Liga to allow finesse and beauty a bigger stage. The kind of freedom and space which allowed them to score six goals while visiting Real Madrid last weekend.

Yesterday, though, while Chelsea continued to deny Barca the kind of breathing room Messi and co. desired, the vistors triumphed anyway.

As we all know: anything can happen in this sport, and three minutes into stoppage time, Andreas Iniesta latched onto Lionel Messi’s pass first time and hooked it into the net. Cech had no chance. With the away goal rule, Chelsea were ousted from the competition instantaneously.

Chelsea shut down Barca’s beautiful, flowing style for over 180 minutes. But all it took was a spark of Messi brilliance followed by a pristine Iniesta strike for the match to be turned upon it’s head.

After my preview of this tie, I had been accused of being biased toward EPL and against La Liga. I responded that while the English Premier League is my favorite, I love watching La Liga. I know many fans of the English game who feel the same way. It’s easy to be drawn in by the attractive football displayed weekly by clubs like Barca, Valencia, Sevilla and both Madrids. The English league is exciting for it’s intensity and tempo, but the modern Spanish league encapsulates what we mean when we say: The Beautiful Game. Lionel Messi is about the most watchable football player on the planet. His combination of technique, creativity and daring means one doesn’t know what he’ll do at any given moment, but it’ll probably be beautiful. I had felt Chelsea’s harder, “uglier” game would prevail. Though I didn’t want it to. I wanted beauty to win.

How do La Liga supporters respond to watching the EPL? What’s the view from the other direction? Does the EPL seem to0 coarse and brutish after watching La Liga?

Beauty is subjective. A Peter Crouch bicycle kick may look like a stork being hit in the stomach with a bowling ball to many, but it has a distinct visceral appeal for me and I’m apt to go home and find the clip on the web later that night so I can view it several more times. Players like Ashley Young, Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robinho can all find that intersection where form and function come together perfectly to create that transcendent footballing moment we all love to see. La Liga’s best players may find it more often, but it does thrive in the EPL in it’s own way.

I’ve seen Chelsea play much more attractive football than they brought to the arena for Barca. Their method of containment made their game uglier than it could have been, but the big rule in architecture also holds true for football: form follows function. Hiddink thought his first leg a success so he found no reason to change his form and risk giving Barcelona space to do any damage. He thought one goal was enough to go through, but he should have gone for the goal in Barcelona. The negative approach has left him with nothing.

Beauty had a winner in stoppage time. Long live The Beautiful Game.

41 thoughts on “Chelsea v Barcelona: The Beautiful Game Triumphs”

  1. The top four teams in Europe are all in the EPL. Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal. Barcelona is fifth, perhaps Wolfsburg and AZ probably 6th, and so on.


    As the UEFA Cup and the eye test indicates if you watch an EPL game from outside the top four plus Everton the quality of the league drops off dramatically. Werder Bremen is currently 11th in the Bundesliga and probably would finish 6th or 7th at worst in the (B)PL. Sides such as Gladbach and Torino would not be facing relegation in the (B)PL also because they are much deeper and better balanced than the rubbish bottom five or six sides in England. For example, Hull City would have ZERO chance of escaping relegation in Germany or Spain and little chance in Italy or Holland.

    Yet they still may stay up. England has the best teams in the world, but I doubt we can call the Premier League the best league in the world hands down for sometime despite the bombastic pronouncements from the Times, Mail, and other Anglocentric papers.

  2. I strongly believe football played in Spain and South America is more beautiful, thats why we all love this game. In EPL. it looks like what matters is how good one is at taking set peices or free cicks or even worse, goals are scored out of counter attacks, when there is only a goal keeper and a defender in front of the posts. It is definitely great to watch players like Messi and Iniesta than, Ronaldo and Gerard.

  3. Ethan, take your head out of your ass (which is where it must have been while you were watching this game), and let me preface the following by saying I am huge Arsenal fan that loathes Chelsea.

    Barca did not play beautifully yesterday, they looked awful (see Can’t Cross Danny Alves, no show Eto, and missing Messi). Chelsea shut them down for 90 minutes. Their late goal shouln’t have even mattered because the ref missed at least 2, if not 3 clear fouls that should have resulted in Chelsea penalty tries. Barca played four corners! Couldn’t get inside the box! Didn’t get inside the box! Scored from outside the box! You Jackass!

    I don’t accuse you of favoring English football. I accuse you of being a trader and a poor writer for giving Spanish football credit after this lackluster undeserved win. And by the way, they still have to get through Man United, so you shouldn’t go blowing Barca in the locker room after the post game celebration just yet.


  4. Amazing… a story about Chelsea and Barcelona that completely omits the HORRIBLE job by a referee Tom Ovrebo.

    That shows your lack of objectivity more than anything. Chelsea DESERVED to win that game. They completely outclassed Barcelona for 180 minutes over two ties. Yet, due to unknown reasons, one man, one official, has kept them out of their rightful place in the finals due to his incomptence.

  5. If all that matters is the ‘beautiful game’ let’s just do away with goals and award wins based on style. Arsenal and Barcelona can win everything – until other teams decide to go that way.
    There is a simple bottom line here: The referee was ill-equipped to take charge of the game, and his failure to follow the rules of the ‘beautiful game’ allowed infringements of the laws of the ‘beautiful game’ to go unpunished. And if that’s the way you want football to be run – Good luck with changing the tradition of a game which is the most popular in the World

  6. Biggest piece of rubbish I have read today, and thats saying a lot. Chelsea completely dominated Barcelona. What a pathetic bunch of overrated punks. Just goes to show how weak La Liga is. They had ZERO shots on goal before Iniesta popped up. So much for beautiful football.

  7. Morgan, I couldn’t have put it better my self. Why do people think Barca are so good we should just give them the Cup.

    I predict that Manchester United will prove that Barcelona are not the best team in Europe.

  8. The things is a team like Barca, who do play fantastic football, don’t always come out on top because they can only play one way. Chelsea played like they did in both legs becuase they knew Barca didn’t have a plan b and would continue to try and score beautiful goals – it would be footballing suicide to play open against such an array of attacking talent. That is why in major tournaments the best ‘footballing’ side doesn’t always come out on top.

    As a previous poster said, there are other ways to win a football games including defensive discpilne, organisiation and, as we saw last night, questionable refeereing decisions.

    A truly great side can play adapt their style of play to an individual game, opponent or match situation. It may not always be pretty on the eye, but it’s effective. There is a time and place for expansive free-flowing football.

    Yes Barca are probably the best ‘footballing’ side in Europe at the moment, but that doens”t necessarily mean they deserve to win.

  9. Tom you are totally right, I’m a Barça fan, not from Spain, neither from UK, and I think the referee ate those penalties, Chelsea deserve to win, no matter the way they played, a win is a win, and the goals are the ones that counts, Barça play beatiful, but yesterday I think was one of their worse presentations, totally dominated by Chelsea. Chelsea didn’t play beatiful yesterday, but as someone here said, to play open against a Barça can be a suicide.


  10. rubbish article!
    have to agree with morgan on this one!
    messi?brilliance?are u freaking kidding me?ronaldo being the top 3 players in the world (haha) was definitely proven yesterday, the goal only coming after a sloppy, mishit, clearance from essien!
    this article was sh1t!
    and kartik, wtf are you talking about?wolfsburg 6th in europe????stop commenting on leagues you obviously have no clue about!!!!dipsh1t!

  11. Funny, Chelsea fans complaining about referees. I guess there was not a penalty to Messi on the first leg (for which he got a yellow card!), I guess Ballack shouldn’t have got a red card on the first leg, I guess Ballack didn’t touch the ball with his hand on the first 5 minutes of the game yesterday, I guess that the red card to Abigail was not a dive by Anelka… Please, Chelsea is a horrible team (as most italian teams) to watch and I’m glad that Barça Manchester is the final.
    By the way, I can’t wait to the day replays are allowed in FiFa and UEFA games, that would stop all the whining for all teams involved. I can’t believe it would take more time to see a replay, that to deal with all the players complaining after an important call.

  12. I must say that watching Chelsea against Barca in the two legs reminds me of Spain V England frindly. You can only get to a certain stage in competitive football buy playing “Kick and Run” football.
    Back to your write up, i think that football was done justice yesterday. Even with a very weak back-line, Barca were true to their good football while my dear Chelsea were trying to turn football to NFL “Touch down” kind of play. Eventually they where found out. Messi was kept quite by two/ three defenders at any given time but that allowed iniesta to torment Chelsea and eventually Messi set up the qualising goal just like Maradona did Germany in 1986 world cup final.
    Apart from the top four teams in EPL, the other teams are just rubbish in terms of the quality of the football they play. That explain why the last EPL club to win UEFA cup was Liverpool FC. The rest always get hammered in UEFA cup played by other lower teams accross Europe. Any time you watch teams outside the top four play against another lower placed team in other European league, they always struggle against them.
    So i completely disagree with the best Legue tag EPL gets. Maybe best in marketing but quality of football, i beg to differ. It is easy to win the EPL because other lower teams are weak and to them staying in the PL is good enough for them regardless of how they play. Skote can only win game if Delap is around to throw along ball into the 18yrds and in England that is genius.
    The thing is that the top for team in EPL are among the best in Europe and the the rest are not near.

  13. I’m an ardent Premier fan. But Barca won the game. Chelsea did not play the whole game, they let their guard down in the waning minutes when Iniesta had a clear shot. So to say Chelsea played the whole game is rubbish, I’ve seen hundreds of derbies where the winner was outplayed the whole game yet still won in the final seconds because the dominating team had thought they’d won and let their guard down at the end.

    To blame the referee is childish and sophmoric, to call him profanities is even worse, to send death threats is beyond comprehension. Chelsea left the game like school children (with exception to John Terry and a few others). There were just as many missed calls for Barca in both legs. Abidal’s red card was a total miss which changed the complexion of the game even more.

    Chelsea needs to blame themselves, work harder, and move on like true gents.

  14. Don’t forget the awful shirt tug on Henry in the first game- clear penalty. So I count missed calls both ways in both legs. Barca got the late goal showing the heart of a champion and move on to the final.

  15. whoever wrote this article deserves a slap. Beautiful? Barcelona looked weak and sickly. Their goose was completely cooked by Chelsea. Barca cheated more than any other team I can remember in recent memory without getting penalised. Pique clear hand to ball. Etoo clear hand to ball. He wasn’t jumping. What was his hand doing almost vertical? Then we have the ridiculous, obvious tugging on drogba as he runs into the box, with no call. Not to mention the push in the back in the box. All caught on tape. Barca was CLEARLY the struggling team and deserved to lose. But as if there is some justice in this world, they will play the final with 3 missing defenders.

    There are two kinds of football players in this world. Those enamoured with pretty football and those who win. I believe Barca is about to find out the hard way.

  16. Barcelona are a very over rated team that plays in a dreadfully weak league.

    Outside of the terrible Real Madrid that were torn apart by a English team that hasn’t won a domestic league title in 2 decades there is nobody to compete with Barcelona.

    All this bullshit about their amazing attacking prowess and when a side takes it to them and actually plays football rather than sitting back and letting them prance around like ponies they can’t score a goal in 180 minutes of playtime.

    I mean Chelsea have been scored past by teams that most wouldn’t ever think about comparing to Barcelona yet the great Barcelona go two full 90 minute lenghts without a goal.. says it all.

    Chelsea are still a struggling side and not at the strenght they were at last season and Barcelona can barely pull off a win in a contest full of errors by the referee in favour of Barcelona.

    If Manchester United didn’t have defensive woes(no Hargreaves or Wes Brown) it would be easily predictable that United would destroy Barcelona. I mean they took them apart last season without Rooney and Vidic which really says it all.

  17. Barcalona completely outclassed Chelsea with technical ability, imagination and eventually endevour. There was a balance of refereeing decisions over the 2 legs. But Barca had the ball for the vast majority of the time with Chelsea kicking at shadows and Drogba falling like a schoolgirl everytime somebody touched him. If Chelsea fans think that Chelsea were better than Barcelona they are simply wrong. Rud Huillet had a lot of trouble trying to avoid pointing that out on the telly after the match as Souness and Rednapp spilled their biased bile. Barca don’t have cheats in their team – they are too good for that. Barca are simply better at football than Chelsea – sorry guys – but it’s true.

    However, Chelsea players did tantrum like spoilt teenagers.Overpaid and overrated – inflated view of themslves stoked by – ‘loads a money’. Frank Lampard and John Terry did not stoop to the level of Drogba and Ballack – in fact Frank was pretty damn gracious despite obvious dissapointment and deseves credit for this.

  18. Let’s talk fairness. What goes around comes around. if life had been fair, Barcelona would have come to chelsea with a 2-0 lead. Of all the dubious penalty claims, only the handball by Pique was a real penalty and that happened after Abidal was sent off. had he stayed in the match, what would have happend? fair question. Now suppose the Pique penalty was awarded and Chelsea won 2-1. the aggregate would be3-2 advantage Barca, who would go through? Im sorry but Ovrebo undid what the ref in the first leg did. What goes around comes around.

  19. La Liga will always be much better than EPL. Barçelona deserved to win yesterday. Chelsea’s catenaccio is the only thing to blame. If you wanted to beat Barça you shoulda went for the game. But no… when Abidal was unjustly sent off, Chelsea was STILL scared of Barça. Barça is the teams that deserves the most to be i nthe final.

  20. I agree with Iniesta. All you hear about Blues’ fans is the poor refereeing in the game and how it could have affected the game. Well, how about the meritless red card against Abidal? What about the no-call when Messi was fouled right otside the box as he was driving? Get over it. The best team won yesterday. Even with only 10 men (again, a meritless expulsion), Barcelona played beautifully and deserves to move forward. The beautiful game won. Que viva la madre patria!

  21. From a neutralist point of view the better team won over the 2 kegs. people go on about the ref, but you will always have decisions go for you and against you the best teams rise above them and still win the game…on this ocassion chelsea weren’t good enough.

    Over the 2 legs 1 team tried to attack and the other defended resolutely. Yes chelsea prevented them from playing the beautiful game, but the devil is in the detail…you play at home and stiffle a team when normally the home team attacks. most people would say that would have been suicide against barca but isnt that what the purist are talking about? Chelsea only attacked barca when they were a man down and were chasing the game…the chelsea goal was good but didnt come from any sustained pressure and there was as much luck involved as iniestas goal.
    I bet Manu will attack barca as much as barca attack manu and thats what most neutrals want and this is coming from a liverpool supporter. Chelsea knew they had to kick barca off the park and for most part succeeded, that doesnt mean they were the better team. credit where credit is due, barca played technical football and at pace much like manu as much as it pains me to say it and chelsea had no other option but to put 8 men behind the ball and hope for the best.

  22. Well.. all of you are ignoring the first match.. the fact how the referee denied Barca at least 1 or 2 penalties.. how Ballack escaped a perfectly fair Red card.. of course not to forget the ugly defending football played by Chelsea.. now.. i am sure that winning matters.. but we all watch football to see some beautiful display by great players.. the way Chelsea played against Barcelona just proved one thing.. to stop Barcelona you have to kill the match.. make it more like a cricket test match!! boring and slow.. a team like Chelsea who is considered by many to be one of the best in England should be ashamed of themselves for such a display.. it was just like a third grade school football team trying to escape a heavy defeat by a much superior opponent.. that defensive display proves the point that Chelsea players know that Barca is better and could defeat them easily when it comes to an open and enjoyable game.. Chelsea was denied 1 legal penalty shot.. the others were open to interpretation.. just throwing yourself in front of running ball with the slightest interaction with your opponent does not mean a penalty shot!! Only weak teams try such tactics.. if you think that you are better than Barcelona .. then face them.. be brave and defeat them in a real football match.. and not some boring tactics that proved to be a huge disappointment to fans and even neutral football lovers…

  23. Well put Morgan. When Football matches start getting decided on Ball Possession alone, let me know. Until then, Barca was dominated by the Tactics and Defense of Chelsea, who were robbed on the Pique handball. Remind me who the World Cup Champions are again and how they play? That’s right Italy, Defensively Stout and Counter Attacking. Unfortunately, Man United are going to Crush Barca, so we’ll hear another round of whinging from the “Beautiful Game” folks who want possession football without Defense.

  24. Jeremy conveniently ignores the more recent euro’s, where Spain defeated Italy and went on to win….

  25. “Remind me who the World Cup Champions are again and how they play? That’s right Italy, Defensively Stout and Counter Attacking”

    Ummmm….remind me who won the Euro 2008 and whom they had to beat in the semi-finals to get there? That’s right. Spain beat Italy with attacking football and defeated a similar German team in the final.
    You are going to be eating your words when Barcelona beats Manchester United. They are scared shitless. Messi will shine because he’s overdue. And we all know it.

  26. The referee didn’t distinguish himself, but the worst call of the game (imo) was the red card for Abidal – replays showed Anelka tripped over his own feet.

    Chelsea would have been very fortunate to gotten a penalty for either the foul by Alves on Malouda, or the “handball” by Alves right at the end.

    On the other hand, I could see a penalty being given for either the handball by Pique or Drogba going down in the box. For the former, it depends on whether you feel Pique’s hand was there to maintain his balance (i.e., the ball played the hand) or if he deliberately placed it there make himself a bigger target. For the latter, there was contact, but Drogba also seemed to flop as the ball got beyond him. I would say both are 50/50 calls, and Chelsea can feel unlucky that neither call went their way. That said Chelsea also had plenty of opportunity to seal their victory, instead they played 11 man defense for the full 120 minutes, including the a last 25 minutes with an extra man.

  27. you people obviously dont watch barca games they are superb abd whats more they are not in hundreds of millions of debt chelsea borrowed the world to be where they are today barca have 75%home grown native players, a native manager and no sponser epl is a money league a job if you will la liga is played for the shear joy of it bearing in mind that barca had no henry pujol abidal marquez or milito chelsea were full strength and looked like a rugby team


    Sorry boys, the best team won. As many pointed out earlier Chelsea wasn’t the only team to be robbed by the referee. This was a two-game series, so the Barca fans have more to complain about when it comes to bad calls. Chelsea played a smart game, it was all they could do and it almost worked. I say good try, it almost worked. For a fan of the game, a Chelsea victiory would have been a let down and certain victory for ManU. With Barca in the final there is no certain winner and I think it may be a final we may still talk about in ten years.

  29. ahm…lest we remind you, barcelona will be without 3 starting defenders. i hope puyol can be 4 starters…chelsea certain victory? chelsea had barcelona running scared. messi passed the ball every time he got it because he was like a 1st grader playing with grown men…i am a mun utd fan, i think barcelona has just celebrated their last, given that no injuries occur for man utd.

    and for all the people on soap boxes talking about chelsea behaving badly, do they really know what it’s like to get so close to something you work so hard for and it slip away twice? really? obviously you don’t. the pressure on these players to achieve is very high.

  30. First of all, good article, the Ref should never be blamed for the outcome of a match, all you who say he favoured barca f**k you. Chelsea players should have been booked multiple times and sent off, the play leading up to the sending off of abidal Drogba elbowed Pique in the face, iniesta was tripped from behind (professional foul, yellow card) 4 times and essien at one point even stood on iniesta’s leg.
    As for criticisms of barca players alves crosses were poor but he was clearly pissed at being booked for nothing, and in the end it was his cross which led to the goal. “Messi passed the ball everytime he got it” isn’t that the idea of the game f**ktard, he didn’t lose it barca kept possession and you didn’t score the killer goal. Ha Ha

  31. for all the people on soap boxes talking about chelsea behaving badly, do they really know what it’s like to get so close to something you work so hard for and it slip away twice? really? obviously you don’t. the pressure on these players to achieve is very high.

    Two clubs lose in this round every year. How many of them put on a display like that?

  32. In the words of Mickey the Pikey Bare Knuckle Prize Fighter….
    “ahhhh me ballix”

    Drogba goes down like Buddy Holly every time he gets in the box

    Ballack is past it…his frustration stems from the fact that he is getting turfed out at the end of the season along with his partner in crimes to the game, Deco….is that Top Deco or Bottom Deco?

    Terry and the rest of them were a disgrace…spoiled brats on 100K plus a week.
    Sport is harsh no matter what level you are playing at…Sure, the ref missed a handball, but Drogba missed a sitter in BOTH games….so piss off Drogs and quit Crying about losing…you are starting to remind me of…now what was that fella’s name last year that was crying his eyes out after slipping?? 😉

  33. As long as we have games decided by shootouts and away goals, in my own mind, these games are still draws, everything being equal being the goal total. Obviously, something is needed to decide who progresses but still.

  34. chelsea should have won last night thats a fact,but barca kept the ball 71% at their stadium…doesnt that mean anything!!! barca is way better then all the english teams together and they will show it in rome where they will win with minimum 3 goals. i still think the final should have been barelona liverpool,manchester united are playing chaotic football and luky always. and to compare ronaldo to messi thats a shame. messi is so intelegent that he doesnt know himself what will he do next when ronaldo is doing always the same moves. say anything but please dont ever compare the messi genius with arrogant and stupid ronaldo.

  35. That was a tough match if you are a Chelsea fan, but I don’t think you can honestly say it was the refs fault. Lampard knew they should have scored another goal – and Drogba does flop around too much…
    Neither alleged hand ball seemed intentional either –
    Somebody had to lose – some of the Chelsea players could have been a bit more classy about it. I still feel bad for Terry from last year – that was his real chance.

  36. Look for me Barcelona had one penalty in first match they didnt get but chelsea had three in this match they should have got. Pique is most obvious and if your hand is not by your sides and the ball strikes your hand which clearly did in 18 yard box penalty. Eto jumped and turned his back and had arm raised it hit his arm penalty, this is quite like belletti being penalised against juve. And daniel alves against malouda i dont know if anyone has actually consulted the official rule book but the rule book says clearly that if contact begins outside the penalty area but continues inside or to the the line it is a penalty. And what a joke the beautiful game did not win it would have won if Barca managed to overcome chelsea under fair and just officiating of the game but barca were only even in with a chance to win the tie because the referee kept them in it.

  37. Great Article. One of the better ones I have read. Chelsea supporters, we understand your frustration and whining and crying. Its indeed heart-breaking since the goal came only 2 minutes before you started celebrating. Who played how and what tactics, does not matter. Only thing as the author said, as a lover of the game, it is great to see that beautiful football won. It is high time beautiful football return with success. Spain showed that in 2008 Euro.hopefully more to come. If you have mentality to support tactical football with 10 men behind the ball and counter attack.well good luck, its your personal choice, we can’t help it. But according to my count, the world consists of more people who love the beautiful game because of its beauty, not tactics. As the author said, “Long live the beautiful game”.

    We actually salute Tom Henning Ovrebo..and Chelsea is probably forgetting 2004-05 second round match at SB. What goes around, comes around:)

  38. The best football is played in the south American club championships, there is no question, Next come Spain and from there anything goes.

    The Italian league has always been defensive but lately they were attractive until the scandal. After that who watches those Mafiosi.

    I really don’t like watching EPL. Yes Intensity wise its big but damn, I will be better off watching American football than watching EPL. Love the passion though. Love the passion.

    The Bundesliga is actually surprisingly getting fluid, starting from the 2006 national team. Way to go Germany, we will remove the Robotic image we built up for your identity.

    Marketing wise no one comes close to Europe, but I believe south American leagues, specially Brazil and Argentina deserve recognition on the world stage, until then we are stuck with Europe.

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