Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Times, Matt Dickinson: “If talent prevails ”” and the gods of football are feeling truly mischievous ”” these teams will meet in Athens in May for a Champions League final of such explosive possibility that it might shake the ancient columns of the Parthenon. Uefa would not know whether to fear the mayhem or to welcome the drama.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “When the action was over, though, it did feel as if the current Chelsea had shown themselves to be a side of greater potential than Mourinho’s previous versions. Even with Andriy Shevchenko absent because of a thigh injury, their attacking had an edge that Barcelona could not dull. The introduction of Joe Cole as a substitute on the left also showed that the manager had the means to hone the threat.”

The Guardian, Richard Williams: “If Jose Mourinho’s pre-match criticisms of Barcelona’s alleged fondness for amateur dramatics were intended to induce an extra vigilance on the part of last night’s Italian officials, then they may indeed have had a psychologically destabilising effect on the referee, Stefano Farina, whose extraordinary decisions in the opening stages indicated a man with a very uncertain grasp of cause and effect.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Magic and mayhem reigned in Catalonia last night. For every moment of brilliance conjured up by Lionel Messi and Frank Lampard, an act of duplicity or dissent dragged the emotions down from the heights and into the depths of disgust. At times, this Champions League confrontation resembled a playground scene painted by Hieronymus Bosch.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “The great blue machine can be slowed but, as Barcelona found out last night, it can very rarely be stopped. On the turf by the touchline, Jose Mourinho knelt as if in supplication to celebrate Didier Drogba’s 93rd-minute equaliser and another Chelsea renaissance of remarkable power, conviction and courage.”

Daily Mail, Matt Lawton: “Rijkaard reacted to the sound of the final whistle like a sprinter to a starting pistol last night, marching towards the centre circle and berating two Barcelona players who had already expressed their displeasure before tearing into Farina himself.”

The Good

  1. The performance. To come back from a goal down twice against a team like Barcelona is a truly immense feat. The spirit, determination and character shown by the players was awe-inspiring – the quote (not football related and I can’t remember who said it originally) has been used in terms of football before, but this team doesn’t lose – it simply runs out of time. Destined for greatness? I think so.
  2. Frank Lampard. He’s back. And of course it wasn’t a cross – he meant it, didn’t he?
  3. The football. On the occasions when it broke out amidst the drama and the controversy (less than 45 minutes of it, by all accounts), the skill on display from both teams was fantastic to watch. The goals from Deco and Lampard, Ronaldinho’s build-up and assist for Gudjohnsen’s goal – it rarely gets better than this. Which leads me to…
  4. Terry’s part in Drogba’s goal. I mean, fancy having a centre half wandering around up front in the dying seconds of a game when you need a goal – what’s the point of that?
  5. The reaction to Drogba’s goal. Had there been a priest on hand to perform an exorcism, he’d have taken one look at John Terry and decided that he was a lost cause. Sheer, eye bulging, cathartic primal screaming type stuff which was probably copied by every Chelsea fan on the planet. And Jose’s celebration could well lead to a splendid opportunity for Mrs. Mourinho to take part in an unreconstructed 1970’s washing powder advert – “when your husband comes home with sweat, grass stains and several other unidentifiable marks on his trousers, do what I do and get out the Daz! But ask him what the f*ck has been going on at work first…”
  6. The result. Qualification for the knockout phase pretty much in the bag and Barcelona staring down the barrel of the UEFA Cup. Lovely.

The Bad

  1. Where do you start? To suggest that Chelsea and Barcelona bring out the worst in each other is like saying Adolf Hitler had a bit of a vicious streak.
  2. The referee. An almost impossible game to officiate, but the card waving and whistle blowing for seemingly nothing while far more serious offences went unchecked hardly helped matters – he looked to be far more concerned with the slightest show of dissent than anything else. The penalty claims for fouls on Lampard and Makelele (what was he doing up there?) looked perfectly valid and were ignored.
  3. Boulahrouz. Seems harsh to criticise one player, but he looked to be culpable in both of Barcelona’s goals. Hopefully he’ll learn from the experience.
  4. Our finishing. What was a tremendous draw could have been an even more famous victory. To create more chances than Barcelona at the Nou Camp is the stuff of Champions League winners – but only if you put them away.
  5. ITV. Clive Tyldesley did actually suggest that Chelsea hadn’t had the best of luck with the decisions (a master of understatement), but Andy Townsend ripping into Mourinho for answering an interviewer’s repeated questioning about the referee was truly pathetic. Crap, crap, crap – we should expect little more from the ‘light’ channel that brings us the Sharon Osborne Show and Love Island.
  6. The media reaction – some good, some bad but the suggestion made in certain quarters (step forward Rob Smyth in the Guardian) that Chelsea ‘dragged Barcelona down to their level’ is just laughable. The whole episode brings to mind the scrap against Blackburn at Ewood Park in our first title-winning season; if you choose to reduce the game to the level of a pub brawl, don’t be surprised if we give as good as we get.

The Ugly

Barcelona. The most underhand, dirty and unpleasant team in European football?

We can just about tolerate the cynicism, the gamesmanship, the haranguing of the officials – Chelsea are eminently capable of showing the same dislikeable characteristics when pushed – but please, it really is time to end the farcical myth that portrays Barcelona as God’s heavenly missionaries operating under a set of religious and moral footballing imperatives presented to them by Moses on Mount Sinai. They are capable of true brilliance, certainly, but for every one of Ronaldinho’s mesmerising shuffles and shimmies, there are half a dozen cynical dives, kicks, digs and stamps from the likes of Marquez and Motta. Rijkaard’s hysterical schoolgirl reaction at the final whistle (we await the Uefa charge with bated breath) summed them up perfectly; snarling and screaming at the terrible injustice of it all. How very dare they – don’t they know we’re Barcelona?

Man of the Match

Tough call. Essien, Makelele, Terry, Lampard – over to you…

What to remember amidst all the fallout

Over the two games: Chelsea – four points from six, Barcelona – one point. That’ll do very nicely thank you.

And even better…

It’s Spurs on Sunday! Go get ‘em boys.

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