Chelsea – The Rocky Balboa factor
After watching the Chelsea – Barcelona game on Wednesday night, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d seen this somewhere before. Now where was it? I can’t quite put my finger on it.
We saw an epic battle between an underdog and a champion which seemed to last forever. The champ was battering the underdog to a bloody pulp. The underdog offering almost no reply or retaliation, somehow was managing to use their big thick skull to soak up all of the pressure. Now and again a few big blows would get through and inflict some damage.
Damage yes, but the killer blow? No.
Every single Rocky film that has ever been written had its script played out in full Champions League Technicolor fanfare as Chelsea the home-town, school of hard knocks-educated misfit somehow managed to defy all the odds and put the well-groomed, and expertly disciplined Champ away.
It seemed to me that no matter what was going to happen last night, Chelsea were going to emerge as winners. The script had already been written, the massive sea change that has occurred at Stamford Bridge under Roberto DiMatteo is currently at high tide, and to be fair, shows little sign of subsiding.
Barcelona did not actually play badly, I very much doubt that anyone is trying to argue this, but their play in the final third really let them down. That was plain to see by the glaring misses from Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez.
As soon as the 20th minute it looked as if the Barcelona stranglehold had already started to tighten, the Chelsea players looked tired, sluggish, and I could not see how they were going to get the ball back. Time after time the ball got slipped through the Chelsea ranks and provided yet another chance on goal, but it just wasn’t going to go in.
The goal post and cross-bar may as well have been dressed up in blue because they turned out to be Chelsea’s 12th and 13th men. Although, you have to give credit to Ashley Cole for a last-ditch goal line clearance that I think would have crushed the Londoners, and opened the floodgates for a full-on Barcelona onslaught.
So Barcelona dominated the game with 79% possession, a fact that certain friends of mine seem to be obsessed about, and are trying to convince me that this is the most important statistic from the game. I like to keep things old-school by applying a more logical approach, primarily by looking at the score-line first. But all of these passes counted for nothing if they couldn’t land that killer blow by putting the ball in the net, and knocking that Chelsea team down.
A rare lapse in midfield by Barcelona (Messi of all people) gifted the ball to Lampard, who has apparently silenced all of his critics by pumping a ball up to Ramires, who in my humble opinion made the goal with his control and assist. That was it, the big unexpected flurry from the under-dog and in one attempt managed to get through the Champ’s guard and land one right on the button.
Chelsea spent the rest of the game staggering round the ring, barely being able to see out of their left eye. In this case that was Juan Mata, where was he hiding? I read a stat earlier that said that he touched the ball 9 times? That is poor.
But despite this, and some terribly aimed shots from Barcelona, they hung on and claimed the spoils.
The big re-match is next week, a chance for the humbled Champ to prove that this was a one-off and a fluke. Barcelona will be on home turf, where they have not lost this season, and the pitch is ideally suited to their play and width.
This will be an altogether different test of Chelsea’s defensive tactics and skill. This is one sequel that I am looking forward to.