Chelsea 2-1 Benfica (3-1 agg) – Hotel Barcelona

A little preamble

Well well well. Just a week or so after putting in a fine display as the backup writer, the blog’s very own Paulo Ferreira, despatched to the reserves but showing our Dear Supreme Leader and project manager in chief Nick himself that I can still do a turn, the great man himself has shown classic good taste by selecting me yet again for the follow-up report. Well in truth it’s more down to suspensions (Dr Blue Bayou for blatant ranting in the Churchillian style), illness (the good Lord Kaiser struck down yet again with familyitis, a condition where watching Chelsea is only given under medical orders by Nurse Kaiser and Nurse Kaiser Jr) and Mark Vingt-Cinq, still doing dodgy car park deals with Nigerians and bags of cash (allegedly).

So, when eventually re-asked I decided that yes, such is my pride at an all time low as I scrabble around for inspiration and dignity, I am here to write a brief précis of tonight’s game. If you don’t know the result then feel free to look away now… oh come on… if you don’t know the result then you’re a hermit with no access to any media, and therefore can’t be reading this.

Shouldn’t I disappear in a logic paradox at this point? To the game my friends, to the game…

The first half

For this game I am far more prepared, falling as it does on a night when I do not undertake any exercise other than lifting the remotes for the various systems I need to watch TV. And dinner had been consumed before the game rather than at half time. What could possibly go wrong? If the team has prepared much like me then we’d walk through tonight.

Err… this being Chelsea that was as far from true as possible.

No surprises on the team selection, RDM seems to know his top choices now and the players are buying into his reasoning.

The first thing of note is of course the hope that springs eternally from Chelsea fans, when in truth we all know that that hope is fatally flawed as we’re really playing for the right of the footballing equivalent of a boxing match between a prime time Muhammad Ali and Arthur Mullard (one for the teenagers there). Yes folks, a chance to be hosed by Barcelona again. And let’s be fair, we have as much chance as dear old Arthur would have had.

One more slight disadvantage for tonight. We were prime time on ShiteTV, a company that hates us more than Ed Miliband hates George Galloway.

So, Benfica started brightly and to be fair carried on brightly. At one point after about three minutes you suspected we were already caught between the rock and the hard place… defend the lead… or go for glory. Such is the curse of the first leg away goal lead. So we did neither really and the optimists in the Twitterverse and blogospheres were trying to convince the rest of us natural pessimists that we were merely riding out the storm.

Eventually we start to get a foothold but Benfica still hold the possession advantage as we simply can’t keep the ball, and Kalou even after 15 minutes or so had failed to do anything other than concede possession. Tonight he was to be the Ugly. However, on the odd occasion we could break we did look dangerous and eventually Mata found the net with an exquisite finish. Just a shame he was three yards offside and the lino spotted it. Torres ran manfully around but in truth he was starved of any meaningful service and the longer it went on the more it was looking like a long night of attrition football from our part. The one thing that was in our favour was the six yellow cards dished out by the ref, with the sixth being a second for Maxi who found himself wandering down the tunnel for an early shower.

Before this though a rare foray into Benfica’s area saw Cole brought down in the box and a penalty given. Step forward Lampard who scored although the keeper was perilously close to stopping it. I watched this on a replay because under recently passed Chelsea FC legislation I am not allowed to watch penalties. This protection law worked again as we once again scored. My record on this is damn near 100%. I’ve seen and heard this penalty described as ‘disputed’. Well they would, wouldn’t they? Disputed, yes, but dubious? No way. Replays showed it was a stone cold, nailed on penalty. UEFA must be ready to jettison yet another ref who hasn’t penalized us enough, but never mind I’m sure they have a ‘specialist’ lined up for the Barca games. The goal also meant that we would be spared both extra time and penalties. This is the good side of the away goal first leg lead. The goal also changes little because nothing much changes – if Benfica could muster two goals somehow then we’re out unless we score another. The arrogance from the ITV commentary team and pundits was the worst of everything arrogant about English football. Apparently them being down to 10 meant we’d breeze through. Do these people have filters that delete from memory every battling 10-man display?

For the rest of the half and even after the sending off Benfica still have the edge, although the diving antics from some were on the increase. Especially their forwards, Daley and Cousteau. Through all of this Kalou was utterly dismal, constantly failing to find a pass or even get past a Benfica player. As the half goes on we picked up a yellow for Ivan and Ramires and the way this ref was waving them about you couldn’t help feel we might be level in terms of on-field personnel as well.

The second half

No changes, but I’m refreshed with some rather naughty Caramel Chocolate Digestives. Surely we’ll be better this half? If we can get a second goal then surely we’ll be safe. If. There’s that bloody hope again. We did get an early corner but JT couldn’t get his header on target but we did look calmer and more up for the game. Kalou however was still dismally giving the ball away. This boy really needs to be much better if he is to stay. I suspect he won’t be though. But as the game progressed it was obvious we were still in the stick or twist dilemma and them being down to 10 seemed to have made that even more acute. The first sign was a great opportunist strike from Cardoso equalled only by a great save from Cech. And then Kalou finally woke up and did something useful. He wriggled onto a cross-field ball and played a shot/cross across the goal. All it needed was a tap from Ramires but he transpired instead to fluff the shot and actually knock it away from goal and the oncoming Torres. I love Ramires and tonight he worked so hard, but sorry mate, this was a far worse miss than Torres versus Manchester United. Benfica remained unbowed and kept on at us, although to be fair we did create chances with Torres being denied by a great deflection from a Benfica defender. Minutes later, both Mata and Torres came close again. However, a trademark of our season has been missed chances and if we seriously want to give Barca a decent scrap then we need to take them because there won’t be that many.

As the half goes on, any neutral observer or latecomer would be hard pushed to see which team was down to 10. Peter Watts (@peter_watts) of this parish claimed it was cruise control in a tweet to me and Fatty Faulkner (@fattyfaulkner). But me and the big man thought it was a combination of arrogance, complacency, tiredness and nerves. To be honest we were pretty dismal and our control of the ball and ability to pass and keep possession was Sunday League at times. This is not to say any players were bad, even Kalou seemed to pick up from his rotten form through the game, but it just wasn’t gelling. Chances did come but to be honest, you just knew they’d not go in. JT was subbed for Cahill due to a rib injury, but this is not a point of concern and I’m happy because I now believe we have the makings of a back four to stop anybody.

Then on 85 minutes, just as feared. Just as some of us expected. Just as much as Benfica deserved, they equalized from a corner. Defenders were caught napping, but the excellent Cech slipped back to his worst AVB days by remaining rooted to the spot as Garcia ran Ivanovic like (versus Villa) into space and headed home. Expletives delivered loudly, but in fairness we got what we deserved for being for the most parts utter shite against the 10. And now the last five minutes became incontinence pants* time and adult nappy time*.

*Note to the club. These could be supplied much like lifejackets on boats and planes by affixing them under the seats. Demos from uniformed ground staff not required, we can work out their use ourselves.

And still Benfica came, rockets up arses, bits between teeth, noses to the grindstones, arses well and truly in gear. Drogba came on for the hard working but under-served Torres (he also needs to be more selfish though, as pointed out by Townsend of all people, he’s played his mates in enough for them to score). However he had little time to do anything and in fact his notable contribution was to concede a free kick in our midfield. Aimar put the ball into the box and the impressive (again) Mikel headed strongly out. Meireles (on for Mata) went for the 50-50 ball and won it getting past for a lightning break up the park. He could have passed. He had options. But as noted in the previous report, such is the apparent hatred between Benfica and him he slashed a shot from 20 yards. There was a millisecond of silence across the Chelsea multi-verse as everyone sat here trying to work out if he’d scored or not. The huge jangling noise from the multitudes of pennies dropping on the realization that he had in fact just won the tie for us.

Game over. Within seconds, rather than let us watch the players hugging and the joy, ShiteTV went straight to the break. They really are UC’s of the highest order.

But the groaning noise and methane based anal emissions of several thousand bowels going into relief was palpable. And maybe that was the right moment for a ‘comfort break’ for all the Chelsea fans.

The epilogue

What? No ratings? No Good, Bad and Ugly?

No. There really is no time now, so tonight just a plain old summary

The only real poor individual performance for me was from Kalou. Yes, he works hard but tonight he was a liability and proof (for me) yet again that he is not the 90-minute player but is at best a benchwarmer that can add a dimension for short spells. Luiz was good again without hitting last week’s heights and to be honest when you look at all the team they all did OK, it just didn’t gel and as I say it may have been a number of things but to be kind I’ll say it was nerves and indecisiveness. Stick or twist and in the end we did neither, opting instead for a no man’s land of mostly piss-poor football. Our man of the match for me though was the increasingly impressive Mikel Obi, so take a bow because with each passing game he is commanding more and more of the play and if he carries on he’ll be the prefect blend of Makelele and Ballack.

The important thing is even though we were decidedly poor we still won the game. And very few seasoned fans ever thought this would be easy. None with any semblance of knowledge about the game and about Chelsea anyway. We still managed to set up a match against our uber-nemesis, the tippy-tappy diving wankfest that is Barcelona. If we are to play and beat Barcelona then we have to keep 11 on the pitch and it has to be ugly. Like I say Arthur Mullard versus Muhammed Ali in his prime, floating and stinging with ferocious speed. Except even dear old Arthur won’t be ugly enough in this case. And as I have no wish to make Arthur even uglier by scarring him, the only solution is drastic. We will have to be Arthur Mullard wearing a Luke Chadwick mask with a Steve Austin arm. Big, ugly with a super strong occasional punch. More references for the teenagers there. Then we may just have a chance.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

The press reports

The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “Stamford Bridge, once again, feels like a happy place to be. It has been a difficult, frequently ignominious season and there was a point last night, almost inexplicably, when it seemed there could be one more excruciating low, but the team deserve their place in the semi-finals despite the late scare when everything threatened to go horribly wrong.”

The Sunday Telegraph, Jason Burt: “And now for Barcelona. But only just. The aggregate result appeared relatively comfortable but this was another instalment in the nerve-jangling, controversy-ridden, last-gasp Champions League football that Chelsea appear to have patented over the years.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “So near and yet, for now, Chelsea feel so very far from the possibility of a second final of the Abramovich years. Standing in the way in the semi-finals is a familiar enemy and one that seems to discover new and devastating ways to break the hearts of their opponents with every game that they win. This is Barcelona in 2012. This is the biggest test any team of this generation will face.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “It took a late Raul Meireles goal to settle Chelsea nerves after a game drifting towards a comfortable if unspectacular home win was brought back to life by an 84th minute Benfica goal. It was a much stronger performance by the Lisbon club than had been witnessed on their home turf but after Frank Lampard had put his side ahead from the penalty spot and the visitors had been reduced to 10 men by a sending off for Maxi Pereira, Chelsea were well on course for the semi-finals. Roberto Di Matteo’s men should have put the tie beyond all doubt in the second half but missed a handful of good chances and were then punished for poor set-piece defending by a Benfica side that had always carried a threat. Javi Garcia made it 1-1. Fortunately with the Portuguese outfit committing men forward in stoppage time for the goal that would have sent them into the semi-final, Chelsea landed the sucker punch.”

The goals

21′ Lampard (pen) 1-0
85′ Javi Garcia 1-1
90+2′ Meireles 2-1

There are 48 comments

Add yours
  1. Harry

    CL semi
    final will be a deciding factor in career of RDM. If he is able to overcome semi
    final hurdle successfully, he will be in charge of CFC for foreseeable future.

  2. olu

    … and that phlegm I mentioned… know why it’s the colour of roasted corn? It’s because the well I drink from ( the one in the backyard of my father’s 5 storey clay and straw hut ) has oil leaking into it from ‘down below’. Yes, there’s an oil well in my father’s compound and the government doesn’t know this… now if you’re interested in some of the action, Chief Tony, all you need to do is to reply this message with  your Credit Card PIN, Account Number and Date of Birth. This is hot business, wise cracks are not accepted! I’ve lurked around here for ages ( I know that’s unacceptably cliched for this blog, but I’m tired) and the word-craft just makes me glow from inside, and on a football blog too! Love it. Nothing to add regarding the game.

  3. NorthernVA

    Great report sir. Once again greatly appreciated on short rest. Agreed with your selection of Mikel as man of the match. We’ve missed him for much of this season. I recorded the game and had to rely on the Guardian’s minute by minute coverage. It appears Paul Doyle and ITV were singing for the same hymn sheet. I know it’s by design but good lord he is one smug S.O.B.

    We deserve to be where we are at the moment. The pundits and hipster football fans all favored Valencia, Napoli, and Benfica over us but we’re still standing. Ruud said on twitter hours prior to the game, “Tonight Chelsea is going to the semi-final. Come on Chelsea win this one and revenge is in the making.” 

    Our boys have the chance to put right one of the most massive wrongs I have ever witnessed in my 26+ years as a sports fan. I’m backing Drogba, Lampard, Terry, Cole, and Cech in this battle (last chance saloon). Revenge is a massive factor in any sporting contest with two clubs that have had our recent history against each other. Barcelona are a fantastic team but as Rick Flair (old school professional wrestler) always proudly boasted, “To be the man you’ve got to beat the man.”

    Always Remeber Ovrebo…. 


  4. Cunningplan

    Good report Mr G. totally agree with you regard Kalou, he was back to his infuriating worst last night and I was screaming at the TV to have him subbed which is unusual for me. I think we just tried to pace ourselves during the match, just do enough to win which wasn’t pretty to watch.  We all know the frequency of games in the coming weeks, I don’t believe our lot are capabale of giving a 100% in the situation of a game every few days.

    So it’s onto the Harlem Globetrotters who stand between us and another final, we’re already being written off by the vast majority of the footballing universe which is fine by me, but I’m sure there are quite a few players in the squad that will have a steely determination to prove them wrong. We do need another Overbo, but this one must have an even bigger level of incompetence and bias towards Chelsea this time, there must be one out there!

    If we do manage to overcome the evil empire that is Uefa and Barca, then I just hope that Bayern can do us a favour in the other semi, because as I previously mentioned JM and Madrid will only turn us over in the final.

    • NorthernVA

      🙂 Glad to see you’re still on board CP. Your optimism and realism has been vital during some of the doldrums this season.

      • Cunningplan

        And my cunningplan for team selection against Meadowlark Lemon and his boys (showing my age now) is that RDM should play Drogba for the first half to soften up their centre backs. Then bring on Torres with his pace in the second 45 mins to run at a knackered defence, simple but effective! 😉

  5. mark_25

    6 semis and one final in 9 years is pretty good isn’t it?  Or are we the Tim Henman/Andy Murray equivalent in the Champions League; so much hope and anticipation but just as we reach the summit of Henman Hill we slip and roll to back to the foothills.

    It’s not mission impossible so my hope springs eternal.  Off to TripAdvisor to research Munich hotels.

    • Cunningplan

      “6 semis and one final in 9 years is pretty good isn’t it?”

      If I only managed 6 semis and one final in the last 9 years Mrs. CP wouldn’t have been that happy, or perhaps she would. 😉
      Sorry to plagerise your humour Mark, but it just had to be done.

      I’ll get my rubber coat!

  6. Ryan

    Great report mate. A couple of things. I thought last nights performance was an extension of the first leg, where we allowed Benfica to dominate us far too easily and gave the ball back every time we won it. The general consensus was that we played well (first leg). I was in a minority (of one?) who thought that while we defended well (last week) we didn’t play particularly well. One of the consequences of allowing your opponent a huge chunk of the possesion is that you end up knackered towards the end of games.

    Second thing. I would’ve liked to see Sturridge for Kalou at any point from about half an hour in. Not because I’m a particular fan (although I don’t dislike him) just because their RB appeared to be slower than a slow thing going very slowly. Studge’s pace and directness would’ve terrified him. Not forgetting his ability to pop up in the right place for a tap in and actually score (I’m looking at you Rami!) might have helped immensely in the second half.

    Benfica were a disgrace. As I was at the game and haven’t seen the highlights it’s hard for me to say whether the majority of decisions were right or not. But the feeling around me was that plenty of decisions going Benficas way were softer than Peles cock when he misplaces his Viagra (other brands are available I expect) and that the constant rolling around on the ground was stretching the limits of piss-taking. Personally I’d like to see UEFA (haha) stamp this out. Even if a team is awarded a free kick (for a simple trip for example) the referee should still be allowed to book a player for simulation if he is rolling around as though he suffered an injury on a par with David Busst against United. It’s utter bollocks and we have to put up with it every year. Napoli game was the same. Have no doubt if Barca play RM in the final we will all get to witness some of the cheating of the century. To quote the bloke behind me after the umpteenth “foul” on a Benfica player “Get up you cunt! You fucking cheating Portugese cunt get up! There’s nothing wrong with you, you cunt! You’re a fucking disgrace!”. It’s a measure of my feeling towards this aspect of the game that I’d have happily let this borderline psychopath referee the game (his other pearls of wisdom included… at the kick-off “come on Torres you lazy cunt, hurry up and score a fucking hat-trick [tongue in cheek? I guess] and when Rami was not quite putting his foot in for a tackle towards the end “just fucking head-butt him”. All sensible advice really I suppose). It did seem though towards the end that the Chelsea players were unwilling to make any sort of physical contact with the Benfica players for fear of giving away free kicks/penalties/getting sent off. That is why I particularly dislike the way that CL games are refereed. The cheats quite often prosper and the prejudice against “physical” English sides is pretty clear.

    Anyway. We struggled through. So now we get a lesson off of Barca. Well we’ll see. I don’t think they’re infallible and I hope that Di Matteo has them watching Athletic Bilbaos performance against them from earlier in the season constantly over the next couple of weeks. Thing is we’ll have to take just about every chance we get and we can’t afford to give the ball away so freely. So no worries then.

  7. Blue_MikeL

    Mourinho writes off Chelsea
    PA PhotosReal Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has written off the chances of an emotional meeting with his former club Chelsea in the Champions League final.”Barcelona aren’t the favourites, they are super-favourites,” Mourinho said. “Let me be honest, I don’t think the final will be a Real Madrid/Chelsea final. It could be Bayern or Barcelona, I just don’t think it will be Real Madrid v Chelsea and we know why.”

  8. Musumba

     Chelsea   -10  Barcelona 2 . that is if we will play the way we played against benfica. the complacency was too much and the extravagance in front of goal really spoke volumes, so RDM please lets kick sarcasm out of football !Danny obviously has a right to play, I can cope with his selfishness for very obvious reasons that can not be over emphasized, just swallow your pride and accept he is the x-factor and  make the team look more threatening. i will gladly go for this formation against Barca: i think Matas creativity will not be needed here:
                                    Meireles Sturridge
                                 Ramires Essien  Romeu
                             Cole Terry    Luis     Ivanovic 

  9. Der_Kaiser

    Nice one, TG.  Caught some of them game and thought we were a bit lethargic, but got the job done eventually.  Meireles (rightly) takes some stick, but he’s chipped in with a few important goals this season which is a handy trick to have in your locker.

    Tickets booked for the home leg – it’ll be the usual torture, but that old devil hope is springing eternal as he does from time to time.  We’re going to get leathered / robbed, but there is that 1 chance in 100 that we might not this time.  Disappointment (probably) awaits.

    (Somewhere in Switzerland right now, a referee is taking instructions from a group of men in a dark room, who have first shown him covert footage taken of his family going about their daily business…)

  10. Blueboydave

    Another spot on report, TG.

    I’ve defended Kalou many times on here and am glad that under RDM he’s had 6 starts including our last 3 games in a row. However, he was truly abysmal last night, not only being culprit Number One in giving the ball away cheaply, but also getting up to his old trick of getting in the way of better placed colleagues and screwing up chances – a cross heading towards Torres and Mata racing in toward a blocked effort in the 2nd half stand out.

    I assume the Benfica fans chanting of Michel Platini’s name means they thought they were being screwed over by the ref. Such moments as I saw on TV after I got back home afterwards suggested it was hardly an Ovebro performance, but will no doubt steel UEFA’s resolve to ensure a more accurately briefed ref gets chosen for the Barca games.

    Last 5 minutes was agony till Mereiles walloped that effort.

  11. Cunningplan

    And for all the tongue in cheek remarks and impending doom and gloom in our upcoming games with Barca. Let’s have another reality check, Utd, Citeh Arsenal, hell most PL teams would give their right arms to be in our position and be playing in a semi final of the CL.
    Lets enjoy it and make the most of it, becuase it looks unlikely we’ll be in the competition next year as things stand.

    • NorthernVA

      Exactly CP. Carpe diem! We made it this far we might as well win the damn thing while we’re here.

    • mark_25

       I think those teams have already given their right arms to be in our position, which is why they’re all ‘armless in Europe.

  12. buddha9

    I was be in majority of one last night — i thought by and large we controlled the game  — classic defensive football hitting them on the break seemingly at will everytime we did we looked good for a goal & when we needed a third we scored one —  some big performances: rameries, jesus that guy is amazing — mirelies goal, he’s running through the middle like its the first minute of the game — cor blimey good god! he’s got an engine
    also thought defensively Frank was great

    tide turned a bit when JT was substitued — we went of the boil for a bit —  we have to have him on the field he’s the greatest center half england’s had since bobby moore — when he went off no one played badly but our concetnration and positional sense dropped a bit — cech was otherwise great but conceeded a poor goal — for all their possession Benfica didn’t look anymore than busy most of the time —-lot of long range shots — thought mata was great — kalou tired in the last 20 mins –agree about sturridge but maybe RDM thinks kalou is more discipline defender –

    don’t agree about no hope against  BArca no other english team gives them more trouble than us —

    real issue is that the second legs’s at theirs — Drogba’s gotta bully them at the bridge — look at barc center halfs marcarano from liverpool for gods sake —  Drogba can get at him —   they aren’t as good this year in defence — 

    so think we can get among them at the bridge with drogba and sturridge and take a 2 nil lead to barca — call me a dreamer  but this side is evolving into a great eurpoean team — before our eyes — passages of play last night were really great — barca aren’t invincible

    Mourinho means Uefa won’t allow barca to be beaten — i think he’s trying to do us a favour by stressing our history of dodgy dodgy referring against BArca — hoping to shame the refs into being fairer — cheers Jose but fat chance.

  13. buddha9

    tem v barca @ bridge    back 4 as last nite
    mikel lamps mata
    sturridge droba rameries

    in barca torres and kalou

  14. Dylbo Baggins

    I’m actually looking forward to the game. 

    Nothing to fear- no one has given us a chance in hell. The players can play with a certain freedom. All the pressure is on Barca. 

    I’m sure plenty of punters playing roulette have gone broke on the theory that it’s gotta come up black at some point, but christ almighty, it really does… doesn’t it?

  15. Agh57

    I thought we were fine. It wasn’t a classic but we needed to do what we had to do. Unusually for us it didn’t seem in doubt until they go the equaliser and our second goal then killed it off.

  16. Ianforsyth

    I’m with Ryan on the Benfica antics (you might have taken your life in your hands by pointing out to the psychopath that Benfica didn’t have one Portuguese in their team) and the refereeing. It has to be said that of all the other European sides, and with Barcelona as a dishonourable exception, Portuguese teams are the worst at diving about and conning referees. I first noticed this in that final when Celtic lost to a Porto team that I think were managed by Jose……

    A strange mix of hopeful relaxation mixed in with increasing tension last night. I thought we deserved it over the two games but also showed why it must be long odds against us winning it. And I also thought Aimar was fucking terrific. Not saying I want us to buy him or anything, just making an observation that he had a fantastic game.

    I gather Luiz and Ashley avoided yellows last night that would have put them out of the first leg of the semi. I assume that means a yellow at the Bridge – surely no chance of that happening – would put them out of the game at Camp Nou? 

  17. Cunningplan

    I just thought that the brave and intrepid posters on this blog need a rallying call to man up, and get behind our boys in blue for the sequence of tough upcoming fixtures. There have been many great men and women over the course of history who have made insipirational speeches to motivate, and it’s been hard to find one that suits us. But needless to say I’ve spent a few minutes on that search to find something that will have us ready for the battle ahead, so we all can believe the impossible is possible!
    Watch, listen and enjoy….. please.

  18. Fiftee

    Christ, Newcastle really aren’t going to go away are they?

    We need to be keeping as much of an eye on them as we do in Spuds / Le Arse. Is 6th in the league even enough for a Europa League place if we don’t win the FA Cup?

      • Cunningplan

        Very true indeed, I’ve lost count of the bad decisions that we’ve had this season that’s cost us points.
        Bad luck for Wigan, but quite frankly I don’t care, three points is good enough for me.

        • GrocerJack

          And we’re game of the day on Football First. Makes you wonder how bad the other games must have been

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