Well well well. My prediction was right after all! What a savage night. Got to ‘The Elk’ just in time after having a bite to eat and got a few drinks in…The it all kicked off. Essiens thunderbolt volley sent cider all over Gabby’s head…what a moment!
But of course, the game wore on. Within the first 45 we could see clearly the contrast to last weeks performance. We attacked ferociously, as Barca’s makeshift defence struggled to contain the Drog and Anelka. They were forced into making mistakes and poorly timed tackles…not to mention the handballs. There were two penalty claims before the half time whistle, one of which was stonewall. Into the second half, Barca upped the tempo and pushed us back, but as time went on, they still hadn’t managed one shot on target. Our parking the bus in front of the goal last week had now turned into superbly resilient and organised defending. They looked ok on the ball, passing, moving and weaving about. yet it was all outside the box. Lack of penetration turned into hope…..
Half time turned into 50 minutes, 50 to 60, 60 to 70, 70 to 80 and before i knew it, we were into injury time. Watching through squinted eyes, all we had to do was hang on. Then in the 93rd minute, Essien’s poor clearance fell to Messi, who gave the ball to Iniesta, who for that split second, seemed to have all the time in the world…We just let be what be, and as he struck the ball, it was only going one way.
What followed were the most undignified of celebrations I’ve ever seen. Barca were a hell of a lot more than lucky…The conspiracy theory has been mentioned – that UEFA (especially Platini) would do everything in their power to avoid a repeat of last years final – But that’s just speculation. Barcelona may be one of the most attractive teams to watch in the world, but they got through in the ugliest of ways. To add insult to injury, their surge of celebration in front if the Stamford Bridge faithful was provocative – almost knocked over Hiddink twice (bless him). After the goal, Chelsea had one last chance, and so did the ref in many ways. One last chance to atone for his sins and award something.
As the final whistle went, the disgustingly poor refereeing, the undignified arrogance of Barca and our momentary lapse of concentration all added up to a poignant mix of disbelief with anger. This was Terry’s penalty in last years final, but a hundred times brutal. I stick firm with many other fans who said ‘I’d rather they’d smashed us convincingly’. Because this game will be remembered for one thing…Controversy.
The riposte at the end WAS justified. Drogba’s tirade was not unbelievable for a man who slapped a big Serb defender last year in the dying moments of a cup final – this was tame. I’d rather he did a Cantona and actually kick someone right in the mouth. But his shouting of obscenities at the camera was classic. For Chelsea, this is what the season will be remembered by. Even an FA cup won’t salvage anything.
If last week taught us anything, it is that the game is always greater than the prize. Unfortunately, the team who play with all that flare and panache are one step closer to that prize after playing the most unconvincing and unstylish of ties. The best game of this season was by far the second leg of Chelsea v Liverpool about a month ago. No Barca/Arsenal spectacular trickery, just fantastic action from start to finish, irony being they fight for the crown of most boring team going. However, the final is the quintessential dream final. The neutrals final, the fans final, the games final. If the game is greater than the prize – and it pains me to say this – then the game has won.
I hate football. Nobody remembers the losers of the final – even less people remember the loser of the semi’s. This article will be full of contradictions….because i can’t really quite believe what happened, actually happened. The great thing about Chelsea however is that everybody hates them. The horribly poor refereeing wasn’t headline enough, and the Drog decided to take it upon himself to make this a semi final that won’t be forgotten.
(Disclaimer – Not own images)