Let me first congratulate Inter Milan on a well deserved victory in the Champions League. In both games against Chelsea, they were the better side and thoroughly deserved to go through to the quarter-finals.
As for Chelsea, the storyline involving this team in the Champions League is becoming painfully predictable. As has happened for several years running, Chelsea lacked a spark and creativity in midfield and up front. Didier Drogba got sent off again. The constant niggling tackles returned (this time by Inter Milan, too). And yet again, John Terry was up to his old tricks of getting in the referee’s face and acting like a man possessed.
When Chelsea loses in the Champions League, why does John Terry have to act like it’s always the referee’s fault and that it has nothing to do with the Blues getting outplayed again? Why not stand up, admit you were beaten by a better team and take the loss like a man, like a captain and like a role model for England?
Instead we have to endure the childish scene of Terry shouting obscenities in the face of the assistant referee when Terry ran toward the player’s tunnel. And pushing his own teammate Mikel John Obi away when Terry wanted to get in the referee’s face?
Yes, I’m sure Terry was incensed by the decision to send off Didier Drogba. And it did look to me like Thiago Motta knocked Drogba over in the penalty box, which led to the players getting tangled together and supposedly Drogba kicked out at Motta. However the angles of the video replay were poor and it was inconclusive whether Drogba should have received a red card or not.
When Chelsea plays in the Champions League, it always feels like they’re carrying a ton of baggage presumably from the pressure of needing to win the tournament to satisfy Roman Abramovich. But to me, it’s often John Terry, the captain, who sets the tone by failing to lift his players above the quagmire of arguing about fouls. If Terry focused on trying to win matches with skill and creativity, maybe Chelsea would do better in Europe.
As it was, it was Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder who rose up to the occasion and became the creative midfielder who thread so many dangerous balls through to Inter’s Samuel Eto’o and Diego Millito. It was Sneijder’s beautiful pass to Eto’o which led to the only goal of the match which was beautifully struck by the Cameroon striker into the back of the net.
Over the 90 minutes in this game, there were plenty of examples of test book defending by both Chelsea and Inter. Maicon, Samuel and Lucio did a sound job of taking Drogba out of the game. And Zhirkhov came into the middle of defence on several occasions to kick the ball away to safety from the attacking Internazionale players.
After the tense and uneventful first half, despite a late flurry by Chelsea, the second half opened up more thanks to Sneijder getting more into the game and Florent Malouda continuing to trouble the Inter defence with his great dribbling skills. But in both the first half and second half, the quality of skills from free kicks by both sides was absolutely appalling. I don’t think there was one free kick in the entire 90 minutes that was well taken.
Even before Inter scored the only goal of this game, Chelsea looked unlikely to score. No matter how many times they pushed forward, Inter Milan did an excellent job of blocking shots and free kicks as well as stifling any of Chelsea’s attacks. When Joe Cole came on as a substitute, you would think that he would have made a difference but he looked slow and laborious and was more successful at generating fouls than causing Internazionale any headaches.
When it came down to what the difference was in this game, Inter Milan did a much better job at defending. Goalkeeper Julio Cesar had very little to do during the 90 minutes, which is testament to the hard work by his entire team but especially his defenders in front of him who prevented Chelsea from scoring at their home ground which is no longer a fortress.
As for Chelsea, I honestly feel it’s best that the club contemplate exorcising the demons and letting John Terry go in the summer. The man breeds too much negativity and is unable to get his team playing with a confidence which is necessary if they have any hope of lifting the Champions League trophy anytime in the near future. Terry is still a good defender, but he’s not a good captain and he’s certainly not the type of leader that a club like Chelsea needs at its helm.