Last weeks classic Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona has received a lot of media attention this week, and no wonder. As football matches go this tie had absolutely everything. Great goals, late winners, red cards and of course disputed refereeing decisions.
That the best team won this tie is beyond dispute. Indeed the stats tell the true story. Across the two legs Barcelona had 34 shots to Chelsea’s 15, 16 corners to 8 and had 65% of the possession. Such one sided statistics yet Barce played the final 31 minutes of the tie a man short! Chelsea ultimately got what they deserved – eliminated. From the start of the first leg Chelsea, knowing they were up against far stronger opposition, set out to defend their way to the final. They knew they couldn’t beat Barcelona by playing attacking football – they would have been hammered as Real Madrid were when they tried to take the game to Barcelona on the weekend between the two legs.
There is no doubt that Chelsea defended well. Any team that can keep Barcelona scoreless for over 180 minutes is doing very well. Barcelona have scored over 100 goals in La Liga this season – compare that to Manchester United’s 65 in the premiership! But the manner of Chelsea’s play left a lot to be desired. They disrupted and fouled their way from the first minute until the last and then had the audacity to protest that they were the victims of poor refereeing. Four penalty claims were turned down but only one – Pique’s handball – was a serious claim. In that case the handball was clear and one can only think that the referee considered that the ball played the hand…which if you look carefully is correct. Still in most cases that would have been given.
Were Chelsea the victims of their own bad sportsmanship? Over the two matches they committed 44 offences – surely enough to test the patience of most referees. Manchester Utd & Arsenal committed just 50 fouls in total across both legs of the other semi-final. It seemed too, that every time Didier Drogba found his way into the Barcelona penalty box he fell over or was injured.
Drogba’s diving is, sadly, a well known attribute of an otherwise great player and one wonders why he persists, when at times it is so clear. In fact, its probably true to say that at times when he actually is fouled, the defender gets the benefit of the doubt because Drogba’s reputation precedes him. At least four times during the second leg he was treated for injuries, yet in all cases he carried on playing unencumbered after treatment. In the end of course manager Guus Hiddink thought he had taken too much punishment and replaced him – much to Drogba’s disgust.
His antics at the end of the match were appalling and it was surprising that he was shown only a yellow card when surely a red would have been more worthy. Drogba’s comments, said to the tv cameras for all the world to hear, were that “it’s a disgrace” before saying the same thing with an adjective thrown in.
We agree on that part at least. His diving, his antics, his phoney injuries, his cheating and his post match reaction were a disgrace and one hopes that UEFA sees fit to punish him adequately.