Them up the road

Well done, Chelsea. Sorry, but it felt like it needed saying. Barcelona are very good, transcendentally good (whatever I mean by that – they’re elite, though, one of the best teams ever). Chelsea, as we saw at our place, are a creaking, slightly one-dimensional side who have players famous for their ‘do-or-die’ attitude (if ever something has held back a nation’s football it’s that attitude, that ‘our spirit will see us through’ – ‘we’ll come up big when it matters’ – ‘oh, we’ve let another one in’).

But football is football and sometimes the great teams don’t win. Of all sports this is most true of football, where the scarcity of goals means that luck and oddities really do matter (this is one reason given for why the game would never take off in America – not a good reason, but one that used to be mentioned a fair amount). So if you do get a spot of luck, or even come up with something good yourself, then can defend well, then you have a chance.

And indeed, Chelsea’s win came about in almost the only way it could: wallop the ball over the top, cause chaos, make one of these chaotic moments count, defend like mad things.

So it went. Didier Drogba, whose face will stay that way if the wind changes, spent half of the evening on the floor in agony, but was able to get on the end of a lovely sweeping move to make it 1-0 Chelsea. Even here you could see some luck, in that Ramires’ cross exactly avoided all nearby Barca defenders in an almost impossible manner. Credit to him, of course, but I bet he couldn’t do that again.

The onslaught at the other end continued. By now Alexis Sanchez had hit the bar, Cesc Fabregas had missed a pair of good chances (including another goal line clearance from Ashley Cole who, it pains me to say, is surely the best left-back I’ll ever see) and Chelsea took ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ to the limits. In Johny Terry, Cole, and Gary Cahill they have just the men for this job, but when you’re this close to the limit things can go very wrong very quickly, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least for Barca to score 5-6 in the Nou Camp (as they have a number of times this year), which looks like a bigger pitch (unlike last night, Barca will surely use the width relentlessly to pull Chelsea around) and which will offer a far better playing surface too.

Fascinating stuff.

PS Hade saw a glamourous looking young lady tottering around Chelsea Harbour (where she works) yesterday. People were staring and pointing. Hade carried on regardless, not impressed by these things. “Was it Shakira?” I asked over tea last night? “Yes, you know, I think it was.” A few seconds later Hade has looked Shakira up on the internet and yes, she does think Shakira was sitting outside the showroom she works in. With Gerard Pique, no doubt.

14 thoughts on “Them up the road

  1. I understand your rivalry means that any praise will be grudgingly given through gritted teeth, but don’t get too excited about UEFAlona scoring a hatful in the second leg, especially as their ground may be much bigger but their pitch is two yards narrower than The Bridge. It’s also 5 yards longer, which means they’ll get knackered passing sideays all the way down to our box, only for our back four to take it off them.

  2. The striking thing is that as well as Chelsea played, it was luck that stopped them conceding 3 goals or more. They are going to need a lot more luck at the camp nou.

    That said, they defended really well, one of my all time top defensive performances witnessed. Interesting that when RDM and Chelsea pull this off, everyone applauds, but when Capello pulls of the same thing with a far inferior team, he is sacked. But its about passion, innit.

    1. I think we need to wait until after the second leg before we see how people react to RDM’s performance; if they keep another clean sheet, he should be rightly applauded, but if they concede a load of goals, nobody will be applauding him.

      The difference in reaction is probably also due to the fact that people have the impression that Chelsea are overmatched by Barcelona, so parking the bus and getting a result is seen as an achievement, whereas the English media seems to believe (mistakenly IMO, but then I’m a Yank) that the guys wearing the Three Lions are far more talented than their opposition and should be winning every match in grand style, and so grinding out a 1-0 result is seen as unimpressive. It’s not just about performance and results in a vacuum; it’s about how performance and results compare to expectations.

      (And as far as expectations go, it’s also worth noting that Di Matteo is very young as managers go, with not a whole lot of top-level experience, whereas Capello had a massive track record of success at some of the biggest clubs in Spain and Italy.)

      1. Ah, this makes my Football Fight Club idea seem even better.

        Suppose I could find a pub back room somewhere, would anyone be interested in a monthly football match watching gathering? I have loads of old DVDs of games from the 70s onwards, internationals, club games (e.g. Holland 74, Bayern Munich from round then, lots from the 78 WC, 82, 86, 90, several important club games e.g. Inter v Barca, Barca v Real Madrid when it was 5-0 or whatever it was, Man Utd v Bilbao home and away, a game from the Chilean league, various Fulham DVDs, etc. I never watch them because I haven’t the time but if my Fight Club idea took off then we’d be away. You’d just need a few people to make the barman happy to devote his back room to the occasion and bob’s your uncle.

        1. That would be amazing! When I lived with enough people to be able to afford Sky Sport I used to love watching their lunchtime repeats of old matches.

          I have the classic European Cup final match (Real/Eintracht Frankfurt) and I’m sure it’s possible to get a copy of the ’66 World Cup final, I’d love to see that. Or our cup finals. The possibilities!

          A football nerd’s book club, great idea.

          1. I think it could work. We’d get Jonathan Wilson to provide tactical analysis for half the gate receipts… Need either someone with a big house in a good location or a good pub back room. I watched Grateful Dead the movie at the Betsy Trotwood in Clerkenwell the other week, maybe they’d be amenable on a quiet night. You’d need about 10 people I suppose.

            1. The Grateful Dead movie was shown at the Betsy Trotwood?! How on earth did I not know about this? I have it on DVD and have watched it countless times but would have been nice to see it on a larger screen. Love the Football Fight Club idea and would be bang up for it.

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