The referee in tonight's Champions League semi-final 2nd
leg at Stamford Bridge was Norwegian Tom Ovrebo
. The headlines of the English papers tomorrow will metaphorically 'scream' it was his fault why Chelsea went out of the semi-finals, went out of the one chance they had to avenge their defeat last year. As far as I'm concerned, yes, Mr Ovrebo
was at fault. But he wasn't the only one.
was at fault for the lack of progress for Chelsea. I can only think of four potential penalty shouts that occurred in the game, I believe there could have been one more. First, Florent Maluda
took on Dani Alves
(who, for me, was something of a disappointment to say the least tonight) and then turned back on him. Alves
clearly impeded the Frenchman and a free-kick was given. Alves
was at the time inside his penalty box, Malouda
was outside. I don't think that was a penalty.Drogba
took on Yaya Toure
in the box, once played in by Frank Lampard
shirt but Drogba
went down only after the ball was out of his control. That was a penalty for me. Nicolas Anelka
touched the ball near the Barcelona penalty box, Gerard Pique had his right arm raised before Anelka
played the ball and the ball comes off Pique's hand. That, to me, was a penalty.
The last Chelsea corner came to Michael Ballack
, he swung a shot towards goal and it came off Samuel Eto'o
, off his left arm. Eto'o
was in position before the ball was struck. That wasn't a penalty and Ballack's
disgraceful, ugly harassment over the referee afterwards rightly earned a booking.
Now, aside from those penalty shouts, what did Chelsea do to earn the win? They had Michael Essien
aim at the ball and score a superbly taken left-foot volley. It put them ahead 1-0 after the ninth minute. Thirty six minutes later they hardly came at Barcelona, the away side made most of the football. What Chelsea did was play defensively in front of the penalty box, they had numbers in position in spaces to deny Barcelona that space to play their little through balls, their little passes. They defended deep to avoid Barcelona playing the long through balls, and their task was made all the more easier with Thierry
People will say 'what is wrong with that?', but while it was cunning to thwart Eto'o
and Lionel Messi
from those movements around and through the defence, thwart the passing and breaking by Andres Iniesta
, it stopped Chelsea from their usual attacking flow, at home. Their usual break from the midfield three, with Lampard
threading passes to the flanks and then joining late, was missing, and it left Drogba
on his own having to battle with Toure
was fortunate to have escaped twice from possible Drogba
-breaks on goal.
I can only think of one moment in the second half when Chelsea came forward, with Anelka
drawing defenders to him and then passing to Drogba
, who turned Pique and then shot weakly at Victor Valdes
, with the rebound gathered and shot by Lampard
blocked, and then Malouda
hitting the side netting. That was it.
Then Eric Abidal
(another defender who failed tonight and who I have never rated for club nor country) was taken to have fouled Anelka
on the run and was red-carded, although replays showed Anelka
tripped over his own leg with no contact from Abidal
. Another bad decision. But that didn't even push Chelsea to surge onto Barcelona's goal. Chelsea seem to have felt comfortable a goal up, a man up, and then simmered. And that led to Barcelona's goal.
That slacking in focus, that same focus that denied Barcelona space last week and tonight, allowed for Barcelona to maintain the ball from a cross, with Messi
receiving and playing it to Iniesta
, who had the time and space to take a chance first time. Ballack
was the nearest player and he ducked or turned away from the shot. It was practically the only effort Petr Cech
had to move to. It was the one time Chelsea afforded Barcelona space to do something......and it cost them.
I watched the game with others and I said to them that if Barcelona were to take a chance first time, they could score. That was because whenever Barcelona got within sniffing distance of the penalty edge, they were being snuffed out, and that was because not only did Chelsea deny them space, but also because Barcelona seemed to want to walk the ball into the area as they mostly do in La Liga
. Defences open more to them in the Spanish league, whereas here Chelsea's plan was to close up tight. The one moment Barcelona took the opportunity first time they scored, it was the only shot on target from them.
Don't blame the referee entirely. Chelsea still had the majority of the game to play for and they hardly did that. Depending on penalty appeals to get them through was desperate. They didn't play the attacking football they are renowned for. In both legs Barcelona were the attacking team and it is they who earned their passage into the final. And it is ironic that where Barcelona looked more vulnerable with Abidal
off, where Chelsea became too relaxed, that it was then when Chelsea lost control of their focus. And the whole tie.
The reactions after the game were understandable but I cannot condone them. I can understand when (not if) a driver cuts up another driver, the first driver becomes frustrated and displays that frustration towards that second driver, from their car seat, but that's it. I cannot condone road-rage, especially
where it can almost come to violence. The Chelsea players are understandably upset but they individually dealt with their disappointment, with a few not visibly becoming animated towards the referee. Nor the camera.
We all have disappointments and if we allow our emotions to take over, people will be at each other's throats daily. What's next, a throw-in is not given and the referee has to run for cover? A child is denied a free-kick and swears at the referee? I don't want bad habits coming into football. Disappointments are to be dealt with with maturity, not in the manner seen tonight. When you add up that, without the penalty appeals, Chelsea didn't play enough for the win, you should realise Mr Ovrebo
isn't the only one at fault for Chelsea's exit. But it is easier to target him than to look at the players themselves.RedsMan.