At the end of this enthralling European Cup semi-final second-leg, John Terry broke into tears, staring desperately into the Matthew Harding stand. Tiago Cardoso, Terry’s former Chelsea colleague, and Atlético captain for the evening, consoled the skipper, easing his sense of regret.
In his programme notes, Jose Mourinho had demanded the “game of our lives” but his defence, which have so often executed his instructions to perfection, produced uncharacteristic errors throughout. Terry knows the hugely detrimental away goals scored by Adriàn López, Diego Costa and Arda Turan could have been prevented.
For Adriàn’s opener, Ashley Cole and Eden Hazard’s lazy dealing of Juanfran’s marauding run was compounded by Terry’s half-hearted attempt at the clearance, ultimately allowing the Spaniard, with three goals in 54 appearances, to thump home. Samuel Eto’o was rash to challenge Costa in the manner he did, prior to the Ibérian-Brazilian’s composed execution of the spot-kick, and our back-line failed to prevent Turan from scoring from the rebound of his header. Fernando Torres’s 36th minute opener would have have been enough to reach the final, where a ruthless Real Madrid team, labelled the best for years by club president Florentino Perez, await, but it wasn’t to be.
The final between Atlético and Real will be the first European Cup final showpiece contested by two clubs of the same city, and it was totally deserved. Turan and Koke shone, yet Diego Simeone’s most impressive player was right-back Juanfran, who defended in disciplined fashion and attacked with such gusto, creating two goals. Atlético deserved this, their first European Cup final since 1947, where they succumbed to a powerful Bayern Munich team, including the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner and Gerd Müller. But the sense of regret will remain, for us and Terry.
Terry’s future at Stamford Bridge is unclear, but the expectation is that he will be offered a one-year contract extension, a possibility recently echoed by assistant manager Steve Holland. For so long, he has been the sentry and the source of guidance for this great club, but his desire to compete in another European final in Chelsea blue looks to be undiminished.
In 2009, at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in the penalty shootout of the final, Terry’s infamous slip gifted Manchester United the European crown. In 2012, on that fateful night in Munich, the 33 year-old was ineligible through suspension, collecting a needless red card for poleaxing Alexis Sanchez at the Camp Nou. To accentuate his European misery, he missed out on last season’s Europa League triumph in Amsterdam, unavailable through injury.
Before the game, he spoke of the heartache of exiting Europe’s elite competition at such a late stage, touching distance from “Ol’ Big Ears”. But as he did, he feared for his future involvement in such prestigious fixtures.
Despite prioritizing Wednesday’s semi-final, we were able to secure a vital victory at Anfield, one which left us with slim hope of the Premier League title but was of more benefit to Manchester City. A victory on Sunday afternoon will continue this enthralling title race into the final week.
The capability of Neil Adams’s struggling Canaries team must not be underestimated though, the East Anglian club eager to escape the perils of relegation. They showed their fighting spirit against Liverpool a fortnight ago, but succumbed meekly to Manchester United last week.
Predicted starting XIs:
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Lampard, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Eto’o.
Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Olsson, Johnson, Fer, Snodgrass, Redmond, Hooper, Van Wolfswinkel.