Chelsea 1 – 0 Barcelona

Match reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Despite talk of Ronaldinho’s return to form, the Brazilian came as close as is conceivable to being cowed. Khalid Boulahrouz, at right-back, forced him deep and when he attempted to slip into the middle he was stepping into congestion and eager challenges. Michael Essien, with his new-found composure, showed that he offers a hope of improvement for Chelsea, who have been not quite good enough in this tournament.”

The Times, Matt Dickinson: “While Drogba epitomised a second-half performance of unremitting power from Chelsea, scoring a wonderful goal and leading his team to a deserved victory, Shevchenko’s nightmare continued. Hauled to the bench before he could trip over his laces, he departed with a smile that could only have been masking his embarrassment. He was bought to add a cutting edge on nights such as this, yet is being upstaged by a man who was once famous for falling over.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “The force of Xavi, Deco, Messi and, although peripheral, Ronaldinho threatened to swallow Chelsea, instead the great blue machine chewed them up instead. Chelsea came out after the interval to score through Drogba, a goal that stands comparison with his winner against Liverpool in September and then they gave hope to the rest of Europe by containing the world’s most extravagantly gifted club side.”

Daily Telegraph, Tim Rich: “Like Manchester United, Chelsea have all but qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League with three matches remaining and from a far more awkward group. Their elimination by Barcelona last season was answered and should they win the return in the Nou Camp, the European champions may not be certain to go through. It was a reminder that when not attempting to do for ambulance response times what Jamie Oliver has done for school dinners, Jose Mourinho has a side capable of winning the European Cup.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Paul Mason: “Petr Cech, watching from his hospital bed, received the perfect tonic as he saw his stand-in, Hilario, cheered off the pitch; Lampard and Essien drive their Barcelona equivalents back time and time again while the hyper-confident Drogba worried the Spaniards’ defence to a degree that anyone will do very well to match this season.”

The good

  1. Didier Drogba. It’s taken two seasons for the Marseille era Drogba to turn up at Stamford Bridge, but it was well worth the wait. He topped off another great performance with a sublime goal reminiscent of his spectacular volley against Liverpool last month. He’s now scored nine in the Premiership and Champions League this season.
  2. Claude Makelele and Michael Essien. I haven’t seen or heard a great deal of praise for Makelele, but I thought he was outstanding. Although both Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack played really well, the combination of Makelele and Essien bossed the midfield to such a degree that Barcelona didn’t seem to have a single second to settle on the ball. The way things are going, Player of the Season will be a straight fight between Essien and Drogba.
  3. Khalid Boulahrouz. Followed his composed performance in a central role at Reading with an even better one at right-back and marked Ronaldinho so well that you wondered whether the Brazilian was on the pitch at times. Again: William who?
  4. The whole team. From defence to attack, every player deserves to be listed here. All eleven. Jose Mourinho was right: Chelsea are more than a match for Barcelona with eleven men on the pitch.
  5. Henrique Hilario deserves a special mention. He was the focus of attention from the moment Carlo Cudicini swallowed his tongue at the Madjeski Stadium, and he coped admirably. Sprinting the length of the pitch to celebrate a goal will always endear you to the fans.

The bad

  1. Wasted chances. It’s no exaggeration to say Chelsea could have, and maybe should have added at least two more goals to Drogba’s strike and won the game even more comfortably than they did. And it can’t all be blamed on Andriy Shevchenko’s lack of prolificacy in front of goal. Wasteful finishing has been the feature of several games this season.
  2. The journalists, commentators and so-called pundits who would rather believe that “Barcelona were off their game” or “Barcelona’s world-class stars didn’t turn up” than praise Jose Mourinho and Chelsea. The result certainly seemed to ruin Andy Gray’s night. Bite the bullet and admit that one of Europe’s best attacking teams was reduced to the ordinary by a great Chelsea performance.

Man of the Match

Didier Drogba. Or Michael Essien. Or Khalid Boulahrouz. You decide.

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