To be completely honest, my pre-game expectations of how well Chelsea could match up to Bayern last night (especially after that immensely uninspiring draw at Old Trafford) were reserved to say the least. Then the release of the team sheets and the news both John Terry and Mikel were on the bench, certainly didn’t help things. And so to my surprise, the quality, competitiveness and excitement of the two hours that followed was of such an incredible standard and filled with so many positives to extract, that in time, I’m convinced the result won’t matter or embitter in the slightest.
Simply, I thought we were outstanding. We were perennially sharp and intelligent with our positioning and passing. We were adventurous without being reckless, taking the ball forwards; whilst we were combative without being aggressive in defence. The effort, cohesion and level of skill demonstrated by every single player instantaneously accreted my beliefs of how good/successful this set of players can be in the short term. If after just four games of Mourinho being back, we’re producing counter attacking moves of the quality that resulted in our opening goal, then we have to be considered very serious competitors for the Champions League this season (if not still slightly behind last year’s four semi-finalists).
For the two goals we conceded I think there’s extremely little, if any blame to be allocated across the backline. If you’re going to play without the ball and look to sit deep then you have tobe reasonably willing to allow shots from the distance at which Frank Ribery equalised. The Frenchman was easily Bayern’s (and the game’s) best player last night. To be so influential in orchestrating attacks in a side with the attacking talent of Bayern Munich, is a fair testament to the genius of the winger. Of course he isn’t in the same class as Lionel Messi but his performances over the last year make him an extremely worthy recipient of the ‘Best Player in Europe Award’, in my opinion.
And for the second goal, as Jose Mourinho said, when you’re defending with 10 men against a side like Bayern, eventually you’ll get caught a fraction too deep and it’ll bounce unfavourably. The deflection off of Dante’s foot was obviously completely unintentional but Javi Martinez’ finish was cool. Ultimately, there was very little we could’ve done.
When counting up the players available to take a penalty at the end of the game, I thought if we were going to win the shootout then we had to win it over the first five. With just ten players remaining, including Mikel, Cech and Ivanovic, not to mention the fact it was in front of their supporters and we going second once again (a disadvantage as a matter of record) the odds certainly favoured the Bavarians.
I personally would’ve picked Terry over Lukaku to take the fifth penalty. It was a real shame for the young player and he was obviously devastated but it has to be said, that that was a truly shite penalty. You get the impression he was just trying to step up and roll it into the corner – Drogba style – but it all just went horribly wrong. Don’t worry though Romelu, you’ve got 15 years to learn how to be that cool under pressure.
Within the exceptional team display we saw last night, were three individual performances in particular that (for similar reasons) were responsible for filling me with so much sanguinity and confidence in this team that the result (in truth) hardly bothered me at all.
3) The first was from David Luiz who was chosen to lead from the back in place of John Terry and who did so extraordinarily. Hopefully at the same time dispelling any rumours that Mourinho might not rate him, he defended supremely, helped to initiate counters and put away his penalty emphatically. If you ask me, he may as well just be wearing the armband already.
2) This was the best game I’ve ever seen Oscar play. The impactful delicacy of his first touch, the strength of his tackling and relentlessness of his running to be where needed, exemplified all of the qualities he adds to this side. To see him perform like this against the best in Europe leaves me ruminating acquiescently about how good he can become.
1) Just like his young Brazilian counterpart, this felt like a real coming of age performance for Eden Hazard. His burst forward to play through Andre Schurrle (who also did brilliantly) confirmed his status for me as one of the world’s elite dribblers of a football – in terms of both effectiveness and creativity. His sidestepping and placement beyond the supposed best right back and goalkeeper in the world respectively for his goal, I think marked his arrival as a superstar on the world stage.
You’ll be able to find an amusing, brief conversation I had last night with an Arsenal supporter on my Twitter page, who scoffed at the notion that the viewing of these performances meant more to me than seeing the trophy lifted. He clearly wasn’t able to wrap his trophy-deprived brain around the relative unimportance of a Super Cup result for Chelsea. A penalty shootout loss to Bayern Munich won’t do a thing to compromise the winning mentality and aura that surrounds our club. What we’ll take from this game however, in terms of experience and confidence in having matched and come so close to defeating the best in the world, should outweigh the disappointment tenfold. There’s still slightly too much acrimony for my liking surrounding the referees and our bad fortune etc. Hopefully it’s those positives that the squad will reflect on over the international break.
KTBFFH, Chin up Romelu…