Day: April 18, 2012

Chelsea’s Golden Night: Barcelona Are Brought Down To Earth At Stamford Bridge

They came,they saw and they kept possession as ever, but this time they couldn’t quite conquer. Barcelona arrived in West London this evening with the sound of a Spector-esque wall of praise ringing in their ears. They’re a great side. Indeed, if it is possible to draw comparisons across the different eras of the game, then they might just be the greatest of all time. Tonight, however, when they turned on the tap in the expectation of at least a trickle of goals, they found it to be blocked with a defensive performance so obdurate that it sometimes felt as if the Chelsea defenders were only one step away from bricking up Petr Cech’s goal and having done with it. The only moment of the game that really counted for anything – more than possession statistics, more than passes completed, number of glasses of water converted to Pinot Grigio in the mixed zone after the match, anything – came at the other end of the pitch, in stoppage time at the end of the first half, when a low cross from Ramires was turned in by Didier Drogba, who otherwise put in a performance more worthy of Drury Lane than Stamford Bridge. We shouldn’t, however, dwell for too long upon Drogba’s histrionics this evening, because this can only detract from a defensive performance from Chelsea that deserves as much...

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Roberto di Matteo Brings Chelsea’s Dysfunctional Family Back Into Line

Chelsea will take the field at Stamford Bridge this evening for the first leg of a Champions League match against Barcelona which must surely rank amongst one of the more unlikely to be played all season. The sacking of Andre Villa Boas was supposed to draw a line below the competive side of Chelsea’s season, an acknowledgement of the failure on the part of the directors of the club in terms of their last managerial appointment. Roberto di Matteo, promoted from the shadows to shepherd what had given every impression of being a thoroughly dysfunctional team through to the end of the season before handing over the reins to the latest winner of the annual new Chelsea manager lottery. Di Matteo, however, doesn’t seem to have been reading from the same script as everybody else in this respect. Chelsea’s season had been threatening to slide from view alogether, but di Matteo has grabbed this team by the scruff of the neck and dragged it into this year’s FA Cup final with a run that finished with a flourish last weekend when they handed out a thrashing to Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final at Wembley. In the Champions League, meanwhile, ties against Napoli and Benfica both ended in wins leading to tonight’s match. It’s a tall order to expect any team in Europe to be able to get past Barcelona at this stage...

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