A: They were lucky. B: They cheated. C: They were better. D: It is written (by UEFA).
A day after Chelsea’s dream was stalled by a incompetent referee and a brilliant strike by Iniesta, I look back at the match, the incidents and the outcome. It is a painful result but chin up, Chelsea won the hearts and were seconds away from winning the match too. I’m very proud of the way Chelsea played and treated Barcelona. I’ll say it loud and clear. The better team did not go through. The better team was cheated and robbed. I know that even with this referee and his mindblowing decisions, Chelsea could have won with a margin if their finishing was any better. With proper decisions, the match would have been over by half time. Overall, Chelsea didn’t deserve to lose that tie, just like they didn’t deserve to lose the final last year.
Now, between Chelsea and Barcelona, who deserved to go to the finals? Ask the neutrals. At Camp Nou, Chelsea produced a fantastic defensive display. Barcelona, for all the creative footballing skills, just could not score or didn’t even impress. Chelsea got what they wanted and Barca did not. At Stamford Bridge, I didn’t see Barcelona. Chelsea attacked superbly and defended resolutely. Barca didn’t get one shot on target except the goal itself. With more than two-thirds of the ball possession, Barca produced nothing. They were invisible. They simply had no ideas. While Chelsea were attacking on the other end and creating gilt-edged chances, Barca were devoid of ideas at the other end. They had no clue how to break the Chelsea defence.
After the first leg, the Barca bandwagon cried foul. They said Chelsea did not play football. Of course, Chelsea did not play attacking football but they played football if defence is a part of football. It’s not that Chelsea could not, it’s just that they did not. That’s called tactics. Now you know why Barca finds it so difficult to understand the term ‘tactics’. They suck at tactics big time. Then in the second leg, when Chelsea opted to play attacking football, Barcelona could not handle them. If there was a decent referee on the pitch or in the sidelines, Chelsea would have won 4-1, purely with better decisions with same level of finishing. ‘Experts’ said that Chelsea would be crushed by Barca because Chelsea will have to attack and that will open up their defence. Did we see Chelsea attack? YES. Did we see Chelsea open up? NO. Tactics.
To say that this is a victory of football is being bloody stupid. Why is Barcelona’s victory a victory for football? Both teams played football. One team played situational football and the other played one-dimensional football. Chelsea played with an objective for the tie while Barca played like they would have played any opposition in any competition. Compare how Chelsea played against against Juventus in Champions league, and against Liverpool in champions league, Arsenal in FA Cup semi finals, against Fulham in premier league and now against Barca in champions league. In each of these matches Chelsea played differently because the oppositions were different, the competitions were different, the objectives were different and even the pitch size and quality of the pitches were different.
But Barcelona has only one way of playing football. You switched them off tactically and they suddenly become dumb and numb. Barcelona had a weakness and Chelsea fully exploited it. On the other hand, Barca had no idea of what Chelsea’s weakness was and did nothing except what they would do week in week out. Passing for the sake of passing. Chelsea’s attacking moves on Wednesday night were so much better than how Man Utd attacked Barcelona at Old Trafford last season. I don’t remember anyone calling that Man Utd win as a defeat for football. Why now?
Stop calling Messi the best footballer and all that. He was in top form just before the first leg. He was in form against Real Madrid in the weekend. He would be back in form this weekend. In the 180 minutes of football against Chelsea, he was nowhere. Coincidence? No. His only blip of the season was against Chelsea because they contained him with such brilliance that it puts a big question mark on Messi’s pedigree.
I’m laughing at those comments that everytime Messi had the ball he was surrounded by three or four Blue shirts. Firstly, that’s called marking. Secondly, if I were Messi, I’d love that because that means space elsewhere to be exploited. When Chelsea were doubling and tripling up on Messi, why could not Barcelona use the space created by this tactic? The answer is, they could use the space only if Messi could get the ball out of that multi-marking using his famous skill and creativity. Forget seeing his skill and creativity, I didn’t even see Messi. Of course he was the one who assisted for the goal. Barcelona was making those type of passes all day long. The goal goes to Iniesta, all of it. See, Messi will continue to score blinders against the likes of Numancia and Recreativo. He must learn to turn up, if not light up, against top oppositions. World footballer of the year? Give me a break.
There’s a lot being talked about Abidal’s sending off. There’s so much sympathy for Abidal because he was sent off against Chelsea. I agree, it was not a red. From the referee’s angle, in normal speed, he can be forgiven to judge that Abidal tripped Anelka. Remember, Abidal must been sent off in the first half itself, when he shirt-pulled Drogba inside the box. Abidal’s red card is incorrect? Yes, in the sense, he must been sent off half hour before the ref actually dismissed him. Let’s lay this to rest. He was lucky to have played those 30 extra minutes. And somehow, this incident is being compared with the Henry incident of the first leg. Bad comparison, to start with. Henry went down few seconds after he lost the ball. As always, old Henry’s timing for his dive was pathetic. In Abidal’s case, he was tugging from behind. Plus, Drogba until the shirt pull was fully controlling the ball. See it better here.
There used to be a time I raved about Dani Alves. I was longing to see him in a Chelsea shirt. He is a superb footballer who would be a match winner in any team. After this semi final tie, he has at least one fan less. He just showed what an awful whinger he is. In the preview of the first leg match, I wrote that he would be the weak link in the Barcelona defence and I was proved right. His defence was very messy and clumsy. How he did not get another yellow in the first leg and in the second leg is beyond me. He must have been booked for play acting plus intent of violence while tackling. His foul on Malouda in the first half was inside the penalty box. Even Stevie Wonder would have seen that. He kept hassling Malouda but the significant contact and intervention was made when the they were few feet inside the box. If the referee says that he called foul for what happened outside the box, then I’d ask him why Abidal was not fouled for this shirt pulling of Drogba inside the box in the second leg?
Just don’t argue about those handballs please. There must have been at least two penalties due to handballs. Barcelona must get off their moral high ground. Remember what TSO said about Barcelona. It is a city of culture, so much that every Barca player does great play acting. Barca players use their hands in football to telling effect. Be it attack or defence. Remember that volleyball goal by Lionel Messi which almost won the league title for Barcelona last season. On Wednesday night, they were all genuinely punishable handballs. They used their hand to prevent the ball from going towards the net. As simple as that. They may or may not have been intentional but they were instinctive. That’s how you determine the violent fouls too. It’s enough that they are instinctive. No handballs are well-thought out plans (well, except that volleyball goal by Messi).
Now you have all seen the denied penalties for handballs. Just how many goalkeepers did they have? Every Barca player ended up punching the ball in those 90 minutes. Let’s now start watching every single handball that’s being awarded a penalty in any European league. Let’s see how consistent the referees are. Tell me now. Have you not seen these handballs being given penalties in European matches before? Isn’t Stevie Me getting penalties for nothing in key European matches? Don’t they give the benefit of doubt to the attacking team? Are European referees supposed to be very strict when compared to the English referees with respect to fouls? Stop kidding. Those were penalties. If UEFA thinks otherwise, let them come out and explain. Let them explain or admit. Chelsea FC can take the harder line here but it would only make the club more unpopular than it is now with the authorities.
This match has set new refereeing standards in European football unless UEFA comes out with an apology for the pathetic performance of the referee. The match is over and we are not in the finals. That’s the reality. But what I want to see is the same standards being applied in all the matches to come. If the referees are crap let them be crap in all matches. Let there be some consistency in being utter shite. That way no one gets an unfair disadvantage. When the ‘respect for the referee’ campaign started I definitely thought that it was a good initiative. Referees must be respected. So are the players. Refereeing is a difficult job. So is being a player in a champions league semi final match. What the authorities must also realise is that respect is earned. Respect is earned by good, tough, unbiased decisions and not by flashy campaigns with verbose statements.
Drogba and Ballack are the toast of the media now. I don’t know what wrong did Ballack do. He screamed at the referee and he did that quite a lot. So? That’s something Rooney does every weekend! No footballer would have abused the referee on his face as much as Wayne has done in his short career so far. We have club captains who spit on the opponent managers and go scot free. We have a player who shoves the referee aside and does not get punished and here is Ballack who in the 95th minute of a key match, out of terrible desperation, for a real handball, claiming a penalty. It will be a shame if Ballack is to be punished for what he did.
Drogba would face punishment. Rightly so. He went a bit overboard and deserves to be punished. Drogba made a mistake and he would be punished for that. What about the referee? He made mistakes too. What happens to him? Is UEFA going to charge Drogba and acquit that Norwegian referee? That’s injustice. I’d say punish Drogba but get explanations from the referee. Jose Mourinho once said that referees must be subject to post match interviews. The managers and players do their jobs and they get questioned about their performance. The same must happen for referees too. Then where is the accountability for the referees? A referee can make half a dozen mistakes in an important match like this and continue his career like nothing happened.
The one mistake Drogba has done is by his hysteric reactions, he has turned all the attention on himself while taking the focus off the referee. While you all read about what Drogba and Ballack did, I’m not sure if you read about what Terry did. Not sure if many papers covered it. I’ll tell you what he did and you’ll know why press did not cover it.
Amidst all this chaotic scenes, John Terry walked into the Barcelona dressing room and congratulated each one of the Barcelona players and the coaching staff for their place in the finals. Great gesture. Hats off to John Terry. He’s always the big man. While I’m pissed with most of the biased journalists, there are some good level headed journos who have written very good accounts of what happened in this match.
Here is Martin Samuel (three-time winner of the sports writer of the year award) on this match:
Do not let anyone tell you the best team won. Do not let anyone say that football was the victor here. Barcelona may yet grace the Champions League final, they may yet dazzle this competition with a beautiful game, but this was not one of them. They swung a boot. Swung a boot and got lucky. Swung a boot and, somehow, eliminated a Chelsea team that were superior on the night and deserved a rematch with Manchester United in Rome.
Chelsea should have had three, maybe four, penalties; they should have been home free long before Iniesta’s fateful intervention. That they were not was considered the work of referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, from Norway, whose interpretations of several contentious incidents were bizarre to say the least. He judged fouls made inside the area to be outside, the ball was handled and he waved play on, and as the game unfolded those with a sense of portent began to fear that calamity loomed.
As the stadium emptied, it did not feel right, it did not feel just. We knew that the better team was going to Rome; but the best team lost.
Tell you what, Sir Alex (and all Man Utd fans) must be relieved to see Chelsea being ousted. He knows which team would be a bigger challenge in the champions league final. He knows that Barcelona are beatable. That’s if the referee remains a referee. Prior to the Barcelona vs Arsenal champions league final in 06-07, the referee designated for the final was photographed in a Barcelona jersey. When it became public, UEFA removed him from the finals duty. Arsenal still lost, thanks to a dubious late equaliser from Eto. By the referee who was photographed in Barca jersey was a . . Norwegian!
Talking about champions league finals, I’d like to see Man Utd win it. They are a more complete team and a more deserving European champions than Barcelona. If they’re to lose, I wish and hope the referee favours Barca as much as he did for them against Chelsea. Referee screwing up Chelsea’s semi final is never such a great story. Nobody likes Chelsea anyway. Chelsea are not a G-14 club. Even the UEFA hates Chelsea. If Barca are awarded two atrocious penalties and Man Utd are denied penalties despite Puyol and Pique catching the ball with both hands a few times inside the box, that would do. Oh well, a red card for a few Man Utd players will also be just fine. Then you’ll see the whole world getting together to talk about corrupt referees, UEFA’s conspiracy, Barca being lucky, injustice to Man Utd and all that. In fact, the media outcry would be a million times more than what happened for Chelsea.
Talking of UEFA conspiracies, do you know that the result of this match was published in the UEFA’s official wesbite hours before the kick off? How did that happen? Just how? While UEFA has cooked up a story that it was a test page, how did they predict that there will be a late Barcelona goal? How did they predict exactly that Drogba, Ballack and Alex would get yellow cards? The one mis-hit was that the ‘test page’ said one Chelsea player would be sent off whereas it was Abidal who got red. May be getting one Chelsea player was the plan but something went wrong somewhere. Actually JoseHoliday cracked it. He found that the referee carded Abidal because for a moment, he mistook the yellow jersey for a Chelsea player as Chelsea played in yellow in the first leg. It appears Chelsea has more enemies than friends. We are always against all odds.
I’m really very very proud of the way Chelsea played. This is Chelsea’s very hallmark. This is the new Chelsea that JM built. The team plays not just with skill and talent, but also with brains and emotions. Cheap journalists always call the Barcelona vs Chelsea match up as Beauty vs Beast. That’s lazy journalism. Call them Beauty vs Brains. That would be spot on. The next time someone tells that Barcelona are the best team in the world, I’m gonna scream!
I want to end this long outburst with those words of Martin Samuel: When the match ended, it did not feel right, it did not feel just.
Answer – D: It is written (by UEFA).