Football eh? Bloody Hell!
It is said this phrase was once said by Sir Alex Ferguson. A man I dislike and yet grudgingly admire in almost equal measures based purely on my personal politics of envy. I have a theory that I espoused here once and also at our very unofficial ChelseaFC Blog that no one knows anything about football. But maybe, just maybe the old boy is someone who might have more of an inkling than most.
In reality I suspect that last night even Sir Alex himself was scratching his head and tearing up every theory of football he thought he knew. Of course in reality the very game itself is such a pot-pourri of chance, skill and downright anti-logic. Any ‘Professor’ of football is a charlatan who bases theory on statistics and tenuous connections. And that includes every single one of us fans. Every one of us illogical, superstitious fools. Surely if ever a term deserved the description of being an oxymoron it would be ‘sensible logical football fan’.
Barcelona are our uber-nemesis as I’ve said before. Barely a game between us in years of football, and then like London buses we get one almost yearly. And they are never short of controversy or amazing stories. However, for me, their football, as pretty as it can be, is the equivalent of drinking a cup of tea with 4 sugars. Refreshing if you haven’t drunk anything for a few days, but by the 3rd cup you’re feeling more than the sugar rush. you feel sick. They are the footballing equivalent of Samantha Brick …not quite as beautiful as they like to think. Add to that the fact they have no Plan B.
If they can’t walk the ball through you then they enter some kind of eternal football processing loop whereby they end up living the mantra of Einstein that stated ‘the definition of madness is repeating the same thing over and again and expecting different results’. They are the worst kind of football narcissists ever seen. I have a word for this. It’s Barcissism. They can’t pass a mirror without a sideways glance and an imaginary pass of the ball. I imagine they have the sort of dressing room that might be packed with John Frieda style crimpers and preeners and make up artists. I imagine they have ‘runners’ whizzing about looking after the individual needs of each and every one of their stars. Puyol aside. He is pure caveman, and more power to him for it. He’s like Lemmy in a room full of Peter Andre lookalikes. Because of this we’re often portrayed as the anti-football, but last week and last night I prefer that Chelsea be thought of as the antidote to the sickly sweet poison of tiki-taka football conveyed through a Catalonian form of dance.
And so a brief precis of the game
I’m no fan of endless debates on tactical formations, and even less so regarding statistics. For me tactics often get slung out of the bath water with the baby when the other team does something unexpected, or events conspire for or against a team. Or players do daft things. Yes, I think you know who I might be referring to here. Statistics are the root of all scaremongering or one-upmanship and if anything the recent CL games proved the futile nature of their use as the sole premise of debate or argument. Apart from one stat, the one in the goals column, nothing else matters that much.
Pre-match I was full of nerves and as daft as it sounds it took a real effort to sit down and watch as the tippy-tappy ballet dancing prima-donnas started to waltz through us in their flouncing, prancing, diving manner. Within 5 minutes, despite a bright start for us, it was obvious we were going to be subject to football’s equivalent of Rourkes Drift yet again. That or The Battle of Little Bighorn. Roughly 10 minutes in and the first tactic ruining event occurs as the impressive Gary Cahill slides awkwardly after being turned by Messi in the box.
The obvious move was to bring on Bosingwa at right back and move Ivanovic to centre back. Bosingwa did come on but even now it’s not obvious what took place in defence. In my eyes it looked like we lost a right back and gained an extra centre back. When the inevitable Barcelona goal came it was because whoever our right back was supposed to be had disappeared. I doubt there was a Chelsea fan who was surprised at their overall match-equalizing goal but that wasn’t game over by any means.
It wasn’t because under 99% of any other circumstances that event came shortly after from an act of monumental irrationality from John Terry. I won’t harp on about this, we all know what happened and what we saw. I’ll simply leave you with those words. Monumental Irrationality. Inevitably, rattled by this run of events, our heads dropped fractionally and within minutes Barcelona had doubled their on the night lead and taken aggregate lead in the match. Was I alone in thinking this was the end? I doubt it. I bet even SAF was thinking it was game over, perhaps even with some glee. Then came the turning point.
With one minute of the added time up, we finally got the ball and with a stunning move that the Barcissists themselves would have been proud of Frank Lampard played the perfect ball to the hard working and deeply impressive Ramires to score a goal of pure Brazilian impish impudence and skill. Although if I’m honest despite my joy, the overriding thought was ‘Oh no, what have you done?’. Once again the Goddess of Hope had reared her head, lifted her skirt showing me the merest glimpse of stocking top to tempt me into believing a result was due.
Our aggregate lead is restored. Football eh? Bloody Hell!
I will admit, my physical health was failing me. As was my mental health so I blocked out the world for the second half. The cowards checklist was complete. Daughter doing homework upstairs. Check. Laptop off. Check. Defibrillator ready. Check. Mobile phone off. Check. I had raised the flag of surrender. I justify this cowardice with the thought that because of my strength I am alive this morning because I’m damn sure one of my internal fuses would have popped had I watched it all ‘live’.
In summary, Barcelona laid siege on us. But the Goddess of Hope could not cast a greater spell than the God of Sweet Revenge. Messi hit the bar from the dubiously awarded penalty and if there was a second turning point then this was it. It was as if the bubble of Barcissism had been finally pricked. After this they went into an endless processing loop of pass and move. Time and again they tried to weave through a defensive wall that stood solid. It was like pounding the granite walls of a castle with snowballs. The more the half went on, the more the frustration crept into the Barcissist game and the more their game went awry. Passes failed to reach targets or were overplayed. Moves broke down. Messi became isolated, dejected and frustrated. And Chelsea showed just how a band of brothers can beat the odds.
Yes, we’d lost a man due to his own moment of insanity, but we’d gained even greater spirit and belief. No Chelsea player was being carried. Some players cleared the ball like a pub player would for the most part but that’s what we needed. Vanilla clearance, not precision clearance. Drogba was replaced by Torres which seemed odd as Didier was revelling in being the ultimate utility player, defending, marauding, harassing, in parts left back, centre back, right back, midfield general and striker. But Torres is a Madrid boy and has a good record of goals versus Barca. Like Meireles joy in putting one over on Benfica, Torres now had the chance to do similar to Barcelona. And boy was that about to come to fruition.
In the last 10 minutes of the game, as The Goddess of Hope battled the God of Sweet Revenge one felt that a moment of magic from Iniesta or any of their players might destroy us as it did at Stamford Bridge on that infamous Ovrebo Night in 2009. But Sweet revenge won in the end. False hope was extinguished. Cometh the hour, Cometh the man and Fernando Torres delivered the killer blow like a medieval knight slaying the dragon to win the Princess’s heart. We, the fans, are the Princess in this analogy.
If I were doing a Good, Bad and Ugly then the good speaks for itself but honourable mentions for Ramires, Lampard, Drogba, Torres, Ivan, Ashley Cole and Mikel Obi should be made. The Bad would have to be the fact that we lose 4 top players for the final due to bookings, which may have been inevitable and a red, which was unarguable but completely avoidable. I wonder if we can ask for an amnesty on the yellow cards bearing in mind we’re sweating on Cahill and Luiz being fit? Surely UEFA would want the best of both sides on display?
The Ugly would be the mystifying act from JT. His punishment is to miss what in all likelihood will be his last final in this competition. This is a very heavy personal price for him, which makes the act even more mystifying.
Let’s not allow that to detract from the fact that last night we made the seemingly impossible become possible. If ever there was David and Goliath analogy then last night was it.
We haven’t won anything of course so lets not break out the cigars and bubbly just yet. However, in terms of great performances, great comebacks and sheer terror mixed with joy then last night is amongst the greatest ever Champions League nights. Hell, even some of my Manchester United and Arsenal supporting friends have doffed their caps in our direction. Now we sit back, in two finals and just waiting to see who we’ll meet for one of them. As much as I love Jose I don’t want to face Real Madrid because if any team knows how to dig in like us it will be them. For that reason I’ll take Bayern then please.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High my friends.
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club