Chelsea/Barcelona Semifinal Marred in Controversy

07 May 2009

Barcelona's trip to Stamford Bridge should have been a simple affair. Barcelona needing a draw, Chelsea needing a win. Chelsea knowing they would have to open up more and expose themselves to the killer instinct that has all but wrapped up the La Liga title for Barca. The knife's edge was sharp as ever...all that was needed was a decent game.

Instead this game will be remembered for the train wreck it became, and the disgraceful reactions of Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba.

Let's make no bones about it, Chelsea's performance at the Nou Camp made us all clamor for Greece's work ethic during the 2004 Euros. At least they attempted to counter attack after sitting back for ninety minutes. Chelsea's only legit chance went right to the body of Valdes and that was that. If they thought a performance of keeping everyone behind the ball was going to work, they were going to be humiliated right out of the competition.

One thing that needs to be made clear; just because you dominate possession does not mean you are completely in control of a match. For all of Barca's first half possession, they failed to test Petr Cech in any serious nature. Chelsea neutered Barca's ever potent attack and by using Malouda as a fulcrum to their attack (and taking advantage of Alves playing too far up the park), Chelsea were able to create more threatening attacks. However Valdes was up to the challenge, and it took a Michael Essien deflected volley in the 9th minute to finally break the goalless deadlock in the tie.

Then the game gets hairy, very hairy.
* Twenty-third minute Malouda v Alves and everyone is screaming penalty. However, I'll give the referee the benefit of the doubt and say he felt the initial foul occurred outside the penalty area. Here, it took a great Valdes save to prevent the score becoming 2-0.

* Three minutes later, Drogba is taken down in the penalty area by Yaya Toure and every Chelsea fan inside of Stamford Bridge is screaming bloody murder for a penalty. Again, I think the ref got this call right as Toure was shoulder to shoulder with Drogba and Drogba went down like a fairy princess.

* 56th minute, Drogba is again screaming for a penalty after a Toure challenge. Drogba even hits the ground in frustration when he doesn't get his way. Sorry Didier, that was never a penalty.

* Ten minutes later, the moment that was the fuse to the subsequent fireworks. The Norwegian ref should have NEVER sent off Abidal after Nicolas Anelka tripped over his own two feet. The fact he never even considered talking to his assistant was even more comical. The replay showed there was at least 2 feet of space between the two players when Anelka tripped over himself.

* 79th minute, Anelka goes begging for a penalty that was never going to come. He was already a third of the way to the ground when Toure shoved him to the ground. That was never going to be called.

* Three minutes later, Anelka's ball in and Pique's extended hand gets a good whack of the ball. Sorry, but the referee got this call dead wrong as well. This should ALWAYS be a penalty with the exception of this game. Had the referee done his job properly (which in this game was always a doubt), Chelsea would have had a chance to make it 2-0. With the form Valdes was on, that wasn't a guarantee.

* 93rd minute, the moment of Barcelona truth. Thanks to a poor Michael Essien touch, Messi was able to keep possession inside their attacking penalty area. A quick pass to Iniesta finished off this tie for good. Barca's only shot on target in the second leg was all it took to score.

The finish to this game could be the biggest sham of them all. Instead of the four additional minutes the scoreboard showed, it ended up eight. During the extra four minutes, Michael Ballack had a shot deflect off the shoulder of Eto'o and like a stark raving madman decided to berate the referee on a fifty yard sprint complete with hitting the ref (I'll assume to just get his attention...but you could never know). For starters he should have never been screaming at the top of his voice at any official in that manner, and when it was all said and done he should have left the ground in the back of a police car. His booking could just be the start of his troubles.

Then the full time whistle. Didier Drogba, who had been subbed off in the second half due to a knee injury, seemed perfectly healthy when he launched his verbal assault on the official that resulted in stewards having to surround him and resulting in Drogba's infamous look into the camera and cuss the official moment. While he was booked for his trouble, there will more than likely be more to come.

Both sets of fans need to stop their bitching full stop. Barcelona fans need to stop their crying for the way Chelsea played football at the Nou Camp as it cramped their expansive style and for the fact Ballack wasn't sent off in that game. Chelsea fans need to quit their bitching because quite frankly they were lucky Barca had to end on 10 men and because they couldn't convert on their chances from open play. Drogba had three golden chances, Lampard had a couple, and Malodua and Belletti each had one of their own to make sure the game went 2-0 long before Iniesta broke all of Chelsea's hearts (mine included).

But above all, everyone needs to quit bitching about the official. Let the British media go crazy at how bad he really was. This was 180 minutes of tense football and Chelsea nearly got their tactics right. Just one major problem, Michael Essien couldn't clear the ball out of his own defensive penalty area.


LS May 7, 2009 at 10:22 AM  

Lots of drama in this one, unfortunately too much of it centered around calls given or not given.

I thought Chelsea had plenty of chances to put this game to bed, long before the Abidal sending off. Iniesta's goal should never have been a factor.

You mention Essien not clearing the ball? What the heck was Ballack doing? He stoppped pushing out to cut down Iniesta's shooting lane.

Mad About Fútbol May 7, 2009 at 11:42 PM  

Amen. You couldn't have said it better.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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