Chelsea arrived in Spain with few people giving them any chance of beating one of the greatest sides to ever play the game. But they had a plan, and it worked. It was a truly wonderful team effort. Camped inside their own half for virtually every second, Chelsea produced a superb rearguard performance to somehow, almost unbelievably, beat the reigning European Champions. And they played with ten men for most of it!
Not everyone appreciates it, however.
“Anti-football” they cry. “Ruining the game” I hear. Absolute rubbish.
Yes, a team with a £250million starting XI beating a largely home-grown, beautiful-on-the-eye footballing side may not seem much to shout about, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Chelsea’s monumental effort to defeat Barcelona was a simple staggering effort. The Spanish giants were not at their best, granted, and Chelsea did need their luck, but the sheer grit and determination shown by a bunch of millionaires thrown together from all around the world was extraordinary.
I love watching Barcelona play. It’s wonderful to witness the Catalans in full flow, but it is only one way to play the game. The slick passing and movement between Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and co. is quite something but, only because that’s the way they play, it doesn’t mean everyone else has to follow.
Chelsea’s style may not have looked pretty but let us not forget – defence is 50% of football.
Defending is always overlooked. I mean, just look at the PFA Player of the Year nominations – Sergio Aguero, Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney – all strikers. Yes, all have had superb seasons and deserve their place on the list, but what about the likes of Vincent Kompany? Rio Ferdinand? Nemanja Vidic was arguably the best player in the world a few years ago, but was he even close to winning the Ballon D’Or? Don’t be silly.
This is what infuriates me. Defending is an art. It’s frustratingly overlooked and only ever picked up upon when someone makes a mistake. Every great football team needs a strong defence.
And Chelsea produced one of the greatest defensive performances of all time on Tuesday evening. Every single player in white put in their all to keep Barca out. Bodies were being thrown around everywhere, it was a wall in front of Petr Cech.
Barcelona may have had over 80% of the ball, but Chelsea had 60% of the goals and that, at the end of the day, is all that matters. Chelsea deserve their place in the final, it was a simply staggering effort.
So please, don’t try to tarnish what was a phenomenal effort. Jealously isn’t pretty, bitterness is ugly. Just accept – Chelsea were outstanding.