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.
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.