What a win that was! A massive result at Stamford Bridge, one that not many people expected. Many did not even expect Chelsea to have made it this far in the competition, but here they are, playing host to arguably the best team in the world.
Starting off with the team sheet, I thought it had no surprises, Mikel was present as he has recently been experiencing a resurgence in form. Meireles was probably preferred to Essien since Essien has not yet come back to his best.
Di Matteo said that we would have to play a perfect game to beat Barca, and we did. In a match like this, and against an opponent like Barcelona, you cannot afford to make mistakes, or they will punish you in the cruelest of manners. That being said, the boys did a great job, hardly putting a foot wrong. Perhaps we were a bit lucky, Barca hit the bar in the first half, the post in the second half, and had a goal cleared off the line by Cole, but you do deserve some luck if you’re going to beat Barcelona, and seeing how things have gone for Barca so far this season, we were due some luck against them.
It was clear to everyone that Barca would dominate possession, they always do that no matter who their opponent is, but that is not how you win a game. You win a game with goals, and at the end of the day Chelsea scored one goal, and Barca scored none. Looking at the statistics, you will find them staggering, Barcelona had 79% possession, 24 shots, 8 corners, but no goals. On the Other hand, Chelsea had 21% possession, 4 shots, 1 corner, and one goal. Speaking of the goal, it was a well-worked attack; Lampard freed Ramires who was galloping down the left hand side, attacking the space Alves left behind, and played a lovely ball across goal to Drogba, who finished with aplomb.
Judging by his first few touches, it was evident that a fired-up Drogba was the one who showed up today, and that would always mean trouble for the Barcelona backline. Given that Drogba did spend a lot of time tumbling and whining on the floor (an aspect of his game he is more than capable of getting rid of), he did provide a useful outlet and had a colossal impact for Chelsea. Now that we had our goal, it was going to be more of the same from Barca, passing, possession, and pressure. The Mata substitution was bound to happen as he did not contribute much to this game. Not that it’s his fault or anything, but Mata exerts his influence when he is on the ball, and against Barcelona, he didn’t see enough of the ball to do much. On came the more physically capable Kalou. I hoped that we could nick another goal to give us some comfort and it was Kalou himself who came closest in the final 10 minutes when he blazed over from 6 yards out. Once the 3 minutes of stoppage time were announced, I got a lingering feeling of déjà vu, recollections of 2009 came into my head as we were only up by one goal, and Barca continued to force the pressure well into injury time. Then came the moment my heart stopped, 2 minutes into stoppage time, with one minutes remaining, Pedro side-foots his shot, only to see it bounce off the post, and Busquets blazes the rebound over. We escaped by the skin of our teeth, there was no repeat of 2009, it was over, Chelsea won.
I am tired of people saying Chelsea did not deserve to win, they were lucky, Barca should have beaten them. That is simply not true. Chelsea approached the game with a plan to stop Barcelona from scoring, and it worked. They played on the counter-attack and tried to catch Barcelona off guard, and it worked. Against Barcelona, you have to make the most of the few chance you get, and be clinical; Chelsea were. This is one way which Barcelona can be defeated and Chelsea proved it.
Memories of the 2009 encounter were always going to be brought up, and this match wasn’t too different than the one played here 3 years ago. Barca dominates possession, Chelsea plays on the counter, Chelsea score, and could have maybe gotten one more, but no. Except this time there was no injury time equalizer, and no heartbreak for the Chelsea supporters. Credit to all the players, a wonderful all-round team performance. Everyone did their job, with extra praise going to the solid defense and commanding goalkeeper.
For man of the match, you could give it to anyone on the Chelsea team, but I single out Cole, Ramires, and Drogba. Cole had a massive game, ranging from his solid defending, goal line clearance, and going forward whenever he could. Ramires was his usual energetic self, ran his socks off, and provided the assist for Drogba. However, because he was the match-winner, my man of the match has to be Didier Drogba.
The performance tonight reflected the true potential of Chelsea, one with desire, power, motivation, focus, and determination. If we play with this intensity week in week out, I have no doubt that we would be at the summit of the English Premier League, but that is an argument for another day.
This fantastic week of football will resume with Chelsea paying a visit to London rivals Arsenal on Saturday, and a few hours later, Barcelona host Real Madrid in the El Clasico. Then, the Champions league reverse fixtures will be played next week. In the meantime, enjoy the sweet taste of victory, what a wonderful day to be a Blue!