Chelsea miracle: was win over Barcelona the best ever?

Apr 25, 2012

Pundits compare Camp Nou triumph to Liverpool and United's European miracles

AS the dust settles on a remarkable Champions League semi-final fans and pundits are asking one question, where Chelsea's extraordinary triumph over Barcelona ranks in the pantheon of great football stories?

The Blues went to the Camp Nou defending a slender 1-0 lead and lost one centre-back to injury after 12 minutes and saw the other, John Terry, sent off for an act of madness in the first half. They conceded two goals in the first 45 minutes and then gave away a penalty, but somehow they went through thanks to a late goal from, of all people, Fernando Torres. "As triumphs in adversity go, the night they went down to 10 men and knocked out Barcelona on their own ground will take some beating," says The Guardian.

And the paper's incredulous minute-by-minute reporter was in no doubt about the magnitude of what he had just witnessed. "This is one of the most immense victories in the history of football - not just Chelsea's," gushed Jacob Steinberg. "It's even better than Inter's win here. More flabbergasting than Manchester United's act of escapology in this stadium in 1999. This is up there with the Miracle of Istanbul. Maybe even more astonishing."

Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail said he felt the same "stunned incomprehension" he experienced after Manchester United's Champions League win over Bayern Munich in 1999.

"Stuff purism; this was one of the great nights, simply because it was about more than just beauty and technique," he said. "It was about bravery, determination, a refusal to bow, a triumph of sheer will. It was not Chelsea's destiny to be in Munich; it was their destiny to leave Catalonia defeated, as most teams do. They changed the narrative; they made this happen, somehow."

James Lawton of The Independent said the way Chelsea bounced back from John Terry's sending off was remarkable. "Chelsea, quite simply, found such a greatness of will that you could spend a lifetime of watching football without the privilege of anything to compare with it."

The pundits rounded on Terry, whose red card came for a knee in the back of Alexis Sanchez, but other Chelsea players were praised to the rafters. There was acclaim for Brazilian midfielder Ramires, who responded to a booking that will keep him out of the final by scoring Chelsea's first goal, goalkeeper Petr Cech, tireless forward Didier Drogba and other notables including Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard. The Mail branded them "the incredibles".

Then there was caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo, who took over a rabble less than two months ago and and guided them to victory over Barcelona. "Whatever happens to Di Matteo, he will always have the memory of outwitting Pep Guardiola, of Lionel Messi failing to score, of his players rallying to the cause against one of the most feted sides in history and of the blue flag flying over Camp Nou," says The Daily Telegraph.

But there were some dissenters. The Times columnist Tony Cascarino, a former Chelsea player, was unimpressed by English team's plan to "restrict and retrain" Barcelona.

"I was willing them to get through and yet, among those incredible celebrations surrounding Fernando Torres at the end of his troubled season, I cannot help but consider it a poor reflection on English football," he sniffed...

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A very good win but as Cascarino said, a very poor reflection of English football. This display by Chelsea shows how much the English teams lack the skills that are on display in the rest of Europe seasonally. Note that Chelsea's very feeble attempt to hold the ball even early on in the first half often ended with one player or the other losing the ball. Eventually, the style changed to clearing the ball up field regardless of where it ended up.

The problematic fact of the matter is that Chelsea played the same style at home and abroad and quite frankly springing a player up front as happened with Torres in the second half, seems to have been the last thing on the mind of the players. Chelsea with 10 or 11 men, intended to defend on their goal line for 90 minutes.

Oddly enough, Barcelona obliged by trying time and timeagain to walk the ball into Chelsea's net. In fact the only meaningful shot taken from outside the area in the second half struck the post, but this fact was lost on Barca's coach, who seemed hell bent on the same tactic regardless of outcome.

Could the type of football played by Chelsea be used as a blueprint for the future? My advice would be, don't try this again at home or abroad, for that matter. Barcelona should have settled this matter in the first leg with at least one away goal and let's not forget, missing a penalty is not a recipe for success. But the tactic by Barca 's coach not for the first time, seems to be that the team can repair any damage done abroad when they play at home on the second leg. Remember Arsenal? I would suggest for the future that Barca should reverse this strategy and try to pressure the other team while playing away.

None of this should take away from the fact that Chelsea had a very good win, and winning matters. 

let van dar sar eat his words of chelsea of wishing chelsea be beaten by barcelona.

"A very good win but as Cascarino said, a very poor reflection of English football. This display by Chelsea shows how much the English teams lack the skills that are on display in the rest of Europe seasonally."Really? 7 out of the last 8 seasons we have had at least 1 team in the final of the Champions League. It is known world wide that the EPL is a great league. And you are worrying that a win v Barcelona will make people thing the EPL is on the decline etc etc. When in fact it only improves the leagues credentials, considering Chelsea's past their sell-by date squad and their poor season domestically, the less than impressive football they have been playing this season compared to their usually high standards. By all accounts Chelsea's season was written off as a disaster untill RDM took over. Even though all the odds were stacked against them, after their poor season, they still managed to overturn the European Champions at their home ground after being 2-0 down with 10 men. It shows how much fight there is in our league and that the underdog can never be written off. That is what the EPL is all about, that is what football is all about! Raw emotion and passion for the game! This is why EPL is the most exciting and best league in the world, look at Wigan lately! The heart and desire that those Chelsea players showed for their club epitomises the spirit and will to win which is rife in English football. Not to mention the tactical genius and clinical finished employed by Chelsea.So i completely disagree that this was a poor reflection on English football. Another Champions league final with an English team in. I fail to see the bad. The only people who would disagree is people who say that this was "anti-football" aka spiteful Barca fans and the Spanish Media because they are upset & were expecting an El Classico final. (this is not directed at you)The performance was far from "anti-football" for all who believe that, it was a simple counteracting of the oppositions tactics. Barcelona hold onto the ball for extremely long periods (playing to their strengths), this is obviously how they attack, but they also do this to protect their weak back line and goalkeeper, if they have the ball, the opposite team cannot attack. They pass the ball around the outside of the box to bait out the defence, if a player comes out of position to try and win the ball, this creates the space for Barca, which they then exploit with a killer pass. This is the only way they know how to attack. They have no plan B, which was their downfall. They do not cross the ball in, so you pack the middle and push them out wide, they want to create spaces in the middle to open you up, so you stay compact and defend narrow. You cannot get impatient, because that what they are counting on, you need experience in your team to wait for the mistake, pounce on it, then get the ball forward quickly. The reason the long ball was played often is because they pack 21 players into the opposing half so you cannot play the ball out from your defence on the floor. The only option is the high ball counter attack into the space, which is obviously half of the pitch behind their defence (see Torres' goal). Their centre backs complete inability to defend aerial balls is beyond comical, who has ever heard of centre backs who can't deal with a high ball comfortably. The way the ball bounced around in the Barca box in the first leg after a simple throw in was unbelievable, the amount of panic that caused was there for all to see!The fact of the matter is, Barcelona are far from the perfect team, defending is as much of a skill as attacking. As an attacking unit, yes they are unparalleled, but if you have Mascerano as a centre back along with an old Puyol, you are going to have problems defending most situations. All good teams have a plan B if things aren't working out, so you can keep the opponent guessing. If they had a true winger who crosses a lot more and a player like Llorente in the middle who sits on the centre backs giving them a hard time, it would give Barcelona an extra edge to their play.