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Champions League Final Reveals Ugly Side Of English Football


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.

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  1. satellite keys

    November 29, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Thanks,very interesting and useful post

  2. jono

    May 31, 2008 at 6:41 am

    anyone that says the champions league final was a poor game needs an eye test. im appalled by whoever wrote this report above and call themselves a football fan. it had everything. goals, plenty of chances, 90 yards passes to feet, hard tackles, blood, last ditch blocks, world class saves, and then the finale, mass brawl and a sending off, and penalties. now if that not entertainment, i dont know what is. author of the post = prat.

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  4. tampasoccer

    May 23, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I enjoyed the game: drama everywhere made up for lack of quality at times. It was a battle worthy of a Champions League final. All my friends agree that it was as exciting final as you can hope for: goals, penalties, controversy, brilliant saves, posts, and cross bars, red card…In terms of adrenaline, probably it comes closest to Pool-Milan game(the first one)…

  5. Dimi Berbatov

    May 22, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    surprisingly exciting match.

  6. JLay

    May 22, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I thouroughly enjoyed the match, aside from the theatrics and poor sportsmanship. While the score was only 1-1 at the end of extra time, there was no shortage of attacking play from either side. As a United fan, I’m obviously quite pleased with the result.

    Now – i.oWENS, you need to get your eyes checked. Chelsea were diving all over the pitch, faking injury every 5 minutes and theatrically begging for calls every time the wind blew across the field.

    It’s pretty obvious to me that if anything, the ref called the game in Chelsea’s favor- you certainly got more BS fouls called your way, thanks to Hoe Cole, the Teutonic Tosser, Florence Malouda and Maude Makalele.

    In all fairness, you did get a bum call on the early Makalele yellow, and the ref blew a number of corners and throw-ins in United’s favor. All in all I think it just about balanced out.

    I challenge you to watch all of those supposed “fouls” on replay and tell me that Chelsea weren’t diving 90% of the time. Here’s a tip – diving cheats don’t usually get the benefit of the doubt when a marginal foul occurs.

    Oh well, it was a good, compelling 120 minutes of very English football, and the right team did win. See you next year!

  7. hmmmm

    May 22, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    agree, drama like in every closely fought final, but very little extraordinary play. Will only be remembered for the penalty misses. Except for fans of either team.

  8. Brandon

    May 22, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I’m sorry but I disagree 100%. I thought the game was full of fantastic drama and excitement. As far as behavior issues, that’s what football on the big stage seems to be these days. Zidane headbutts and Drogba slappings seem to be popping up more then ever.

    There is such a small window of opportunity right now in the world game for so many of these players given financial structures and a lack of parody. So when someone flips out and acts childish I can understand to a point. Not to say it’s right, but I can understand.

    Great drama all around and that’s what everyone wants anyway.

    I don’t believe this was a game that hurt the EPL at all. It just showed how much passion there was on the pitch. Plus this a nice rivalry, I don’t want much sportsmanship. God forbid Michael Jordan showed any sportsmanship against the Knicks during their Championship run. Everyone loves a good battle, even if it gets a little dodgy at times.

  9. betsy's bolton bum baster

    May 22, 2008 at 10:54 am

    the ref was blowing his whistle willy-nilly at every little thing, especially in extra-time.

    there was no chance the game would gain a rhythm and flow.

  10. Jenko

    May 22, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I disagree with you. I am a liverpool fan so was wondering if I was even going to bother watching it, but I did and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This post at Soccerlens pretty much sums up my feelings…

  11. m2fc

    May 22, 2008 at 10:39 am

    I enjoyed it, the pitch was horrendous.
    What started the whole fracas? It looked like Terry charged Tevez, but it was hard to see due to the cameras. Anyone else see?

  12. Dave M

    May 22, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Gaff – you say you were a neutral in this, but all your “moments of brilliance” are Chelsea’s, so if you’re not an outright Chelsea supporter – maybe you’re just anti United? Perhaps this is influencing your overall disappointment in the match…? Personally, I thought it was much better than anyone could have hoped for – certainly much better than last year’s FA Cup final. United were far better in the first half, but the huge momentum swing after Lampard’s goal (and VDS’ slip on the turf) got Chelsea back in and they dominated the second half. Who would have predicted a 1-1 scoreline at half? The drama of the red card causing Drogba do be missing during the penalties – almost as big a story as Zidane’s meltdown in the World Cup final – John Terry wouldn’t have been in the 1st five pen takers had Drogba still been on the pitch.

    The ref missed some calls – but nothing major. Chelsea should have sent the ball back to United after United put it our for treatment, but they got the ball back one way or another. There were some scuffles, but that’s to be expected from two evenly matched teams that know each other well and are under such pressure. All in all, a very memorable match in my opinion. I’ll remember the stories of this match as much as who won it.

  13. Lonnie

    May 22, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I think the deterioration of the pitch as the match wore on was a contributing factor. The rain and cool conditions had the players cramping up as well. I thought the two teams put on a good display but the point about sportsmanship is warranted.

    For me, Chelsea were horrible at crowding and shouting at the ref though United had their moments of shame as well. Drogba was brutal…constantly going down at the slightest touch. He can be such a dominant player when he actually puts himself about the pitch instead of falling on his backside and whinging.

  14. JD

    May 22, 2008 at 8:03 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. This had to be one of the most cynically played CL finals ever. ..if not one of the most cynical games of football ever. The whinging and obvious manipulation of the ref, the constant fouling disrupting any rhythm, Drogba’s antics the classy “Scouse Free Zone” banner unfurled by the Chelsea supporters. It’s a shame to see Giggs’ achievement and Terry’s magisterial performance overshadowed by petulance and cynicism.

    I hope we don’t see another “all English” final for a long time.

  15. United4life

    May 22, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Gaffer you must of watched a rerun of the EUFA Cup Final. Not the Champions League Final. We missed a great match.

  16. i.oWENS

    May 22, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Why did the linesman put his flag up and back down again near the end of the match when Chelsea were attacking. If it was for a free kick to Utd then he would have kept it up but he didn`t , so it was obviously for a foul to Chelsea, was it a penalty , not sure if it was inside the box or not but one thing for sure is that there was no advantage to Chelsea. The referee and linesmen gave absolutely everything to Utd ,they couldn`t even get the corner and goal kicks decisions right. Should Ferdinand have been red carded when he was only shown a yellow as the Chelsea player would have been clean through on goal once past Ferdinand. It was obvious that this referee has not forgiven Chelsea for complaing about him allowing a goal for Liverpool in the champions league semi finals two years ago when the ball never crossed the line. Uefa should never have appointed him knowing the history and he should never be allowed to take charge of a top match ever again because he was appalling, unless you support Utd , then you would obviously think he was great. I swear at one point he had a red shirt, because it was like playing against 12 men. Did he get a winner`s medal because he won the game for Utd.

  17. Shakira Graham

    May 22, 2008 at 6:21 am

    I don’t know I enjoyed the match for the most part, Drogba;s little slap to Vidic was stupid and there were some hard tackles but overall I didnt think it was that bad. The pitch was terrible and a discrace. Part of the problem was the ref who was terrible yet again but thankfully no calls were made or missed that influnced the outcome of the match.

  18. tentonipete

    May 22, 2008 at 6:12 am

    And yes the referee and his assistants were terrible. Although none of the poor decisions directly influenced the outcome of the game, their inability to see who had kicked the ball out of play was immense!

  19. tentonipete

    May 22, 2008 at 6:10 am

    I wholeheartedly disagree too.

    It was a hugely entertaining game of football, full of incident, passion and skill right up until the very last moment. The destination of the trophy see-sawed between the two teams throughout the game with both having chances to wrap it up in normal and extra time.

    With the teams being so evenly matched, the game was always going to be scrappy in midfield as no one player was going to be able to pull strings and neither midfield dominate the other.

    All credit to the managers for going for a result and not playing cagey football. The second half was less interesting because after playing 4-4-2 against chelsea’s 4-3-3/4-5-1 utd changed to mirror chelsea’s formation in the second half in an attempt to stop chelsea from dominating as they were starting to do.

    The histrionics were a bit much, especially the unsportsmanlike behaviour, but that is what happens when players care so much about the outcome of the game.

  20. jboy3533

    May 22, 2008 at 5:28 am

    @Kartik – Clearly you did not see Gunners versus Barca CL final

    Also, add my name to the list of readers who disagree with this article. I too did not expect an entertaining game of football especially with how Chelsea like to keep things cagey and through the middle. But this was a fantastic and entertaining game of football. Though not great. It was a joy to watch a game where players treated a possession like their lives depended on it.

    A good win for Man Utd and football in general. Now bring on Euro 2008!!!

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  22. Hedi

    May 22, 2008 at 1:48 am

    I think there is a bad thing when a CL final match involves two teams from one country. There will be lack of surpise. Their whole actions used to see in domestic league, no more surpises.

  23. Sam Dalton

    May 22, 2008 at 1:40 am

    Im a neutral fan and I actually really enjoyed the game, in fact I thought it was a terrific advert for the English game, apart from Drogba’s stupid slap in the second half.

  24. Matt

    May 22, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I disagree wholeheartedly.
    It wasn’t as great as the Liverpool/Chelsea and Liverpool/Aresnal second leg ties but it was a great game. What it lacked in eye pleasing football it made up for in tension cutting drama. The game got a little out of hand and the referee should have kept the game more in check. Also I think if this was an american viewers first foray into European football it was a great game for them to watch. As dirty as the game may have been, it was far more entertaining than last years final and the one played by Barca/Aresnal, a game played by two of the more eye catching teams in europe.

  25. tyduffy

    May 21, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    I thought it was better than expected, although I was expecting a damp turd.

    Some of the whinging was a bit much, the second half was boring, but I thought on the whole it wasn’t a bad match.

    Some of the stuff was unsportsmanlike. But, I would rather watch guys getting a bit chippy and actually caring about the result of the match.

    Watching players like Tevez and Hargreaves who are skillful but at the same time running around like crazy tackling and trying to make things happen is the essence of English football.

  26. wanderer_abroad

    May 21, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    I’m sorry Kartik but scratch Bayern’s name of that list. If anyone has the ability to play borring its Bayern, they are the masters at pessimistic football.
    In regard to the game, I think its pointless to argue who should of won because to be honest, both sides were almost equal. Man Utd took the first half easily, Chelsea the second easily and i’ll call extra time a draw. Ultimately its penalties that count and you have to feel for Terry. It must have taken a lot to take that penalty and its hard to see him so cut up about it.
    On the lack of sportsmanship, I think you’re being to harsh. I personally love the physical side of the English game, yet I too was disgusted by some of the antics by Drogba & Vidic. Cut those out and then it would have a perfectly reasonable rough-and-tumble battle. I think we as fans need to be careful how much we criticize players for their reactions as aren’t we just as bad. You just have to look at the way people take pleasure at the pain of the likes of Terry, Ronaldo and (remembering back to the passing of his mother) Lampard, and yourself, is that sportsmanlike? I personally think fans and their stupidity rubs off onto the players.
    Finally I would just like to say that the ref had a diabolical game. Although he got the red card decision right (technically), the 4 calls against Joe Cole in a row by him and his assistants was embarrassing. Its a shame that the ref made such a hash of the game as it is supposed to be a competition between Europe’s best, don’t they deserve a quality referee?

  27. Kartik

    May 21, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    Recall the dull FA Cup final last year? This was essentially the same match. For all of Arsenal’s faults they would not put on such a lifeless display on the biggest on Europe’s biggest stage. Nor would Barca or Bayern.

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