Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Chelsea is OUT !!

I am typing this post a littled dazed due to the lack of sleep from last night's vigil over my television set.

But hey, it was worth it! Afterall, i got to witness the utter destruction of Chelsea at the hands of Barca. More importantly, i should say, i was really happy to see the arrogant grin wiped off the face of Jose Mourinho. It was truly satisfying...

But i digress...

The match itself was not really the thriller most football fans have expected, given the recent history between the 2 powerhouses of club football in Europe. Most neutrals like me (okie, i admit, i am not really a neutral when it comes to Chelsea. ) who are not fans of either club, were looking forward to a match with lots of controversies, lots of pushing and shoving, and of course, lots of goals! But it wasnt to be.

Right from the whistle, after a tense opening 10-15 minutes of play, it became evident what both clubs had set out to do - die die don't concede a goal. The maths is simple, really. If Barca were to concede, especially in the early stages of the game, it would put them in real pressure for the remainder of the match, as Chelsea would just need to pop in one more odd goal to win 2-0. The mindset of the Barca players would definitely be altered if Chelsea HAD grabbed an early goal.

On the other hand, if Chelsea were to concede a goal, it would virutally be the death knell for them, as they would need at least 2 goals to "breakeven" (they were down 1-2 at Stamford Bridge, from the 1st leg), and 3 goals to win. Even Chelsea (and Mourinho), in their supreme arrogance knew what a task it would be, to score 3 goals against Barca at the Nou Camp.

That being the case, both teams played really tight midfield and defence, and with so little room for the playmakers of each team to roam, chances were at a premium. In fact, i was so bored after the 1st half, i contemplated giving up and going back to sleep. But somehow, i endured and kicked myself up for the 2nd half.

It began in similar fashion to the 1st, but Barca were beginning to show more signs of penetrating the Chelsea defence. Probably due to the tiring legs after a tense 1st half... In particular, Ronaldinho was magnificent with his one touches and lotsa audacious backheels and flicks to team mates. I think he is probably the only player in the world who has the skills and confidence to try out those 'tricks' in such a tightly contested and crucial champions league match as this one - AND to successfully execute many of those tricks he attempted. It isnt difficult to see why he was named the World Footballer of the year... (sigh.. if only Man United had bought him over some years ago when he was still 'in the market' )

As the 2nd half petered out with the score still at 0-0, you could sense the desparation building up on the Chelsea camp, as Mourinho threw in Gudjohnson and Crespo to sharpen the attack play. To be fair, Crespo did have a good chance to put Chelsea ahead, but his attempted toe-poke went agonisingly wide of the Barca goal post. And then... finally, we saw the flash of brilliance that lit up the relatively dour match. And it was that man again - Ronaldinho!

Picking up the ball some 40 yards from Chelsea's goal, he somehow side-footed and danced past 3 Chelsea defenders to power a low drive past the diving Petr Cech. 1-0 ! The stadium erupted instantly with cheers of joy and jubilation, and it made me sit up a little straighter on my bed as well. It was a truly marvelous piece of individual flair and magic we witnessed from the Brazilian. One that deserved to win the match, and the battle.

Chelsea did score a late late consolation goal, courtesy of Frank Lampard's penalty, after John Terry was deemed to be fouled after charging thru into the Barca penalty area. But it made little difference, other than saving a little of Mourinho's face. (muahahaha!! )

hmm.. with Chelsea now OUT of the Champions' League, we shall wait to see how the remaining 2 English clubs fare. My gut feel... Arsenal will LOSE to Real Madrid, despite bringing a 1 goal advantage from the 1st leg at Bernabeu. Liverpool might just WIN, after some extra time/penalty shoot outs (as they always seem to be unable to win matches based on goals in open play)

Yawn..time to catch some sleep..


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