It puts a great smile on my face to know that Mr Blatter and Mr Platini will be sitting in their offices bemoaning the defeat of football last night. In reality, we couldn’t care less, we do not support football – we support Chelsea.
Barcelona may play and exciting brand of attractive, attacking football, but the performance from our boys last night was one of the best in footballing history. Even for the neutral, the game had everything. You could not write such a drama without people rubbishing such an improbable script, drawing Roy of the Rovers comparisons.
2-0 down in the home of the European Champions with 60 minutes left, down to ten men with your captain sent off and your other centre half off the field injured. It is outrageous, simply ridiculous and it hasn’t sunk in yet. At 2-0 down I remember seeing Ashley Cole putting in a great challenge and feeling extreme pity for this great professional, still giving 100% after his captain had left him and his side fighting a worthless battle – there was simply no way back into the game.
Then came the Ramires moment – out of nowhere. Just like the first leg, a pinpoint ball from Lampard after winning a hustle in the middle of the field setting it up. After the initial jubilation, this goal only served to exacerbate my feelings of hatred towards John Terry. As far as I was concerned, it only served to highlight how a tie which was distinctly winnable 5 minutes ago, was now mission impossible.
I did not realise it at the time, but without a doubt that was the turning point for us – if we had gone in 2-0 down I just cannot see how we could have picked ourselves up. We now had something to protect and although the point was little consolation to us fans at half time, we were still just 45 minutes from the Champions league final.
We got our luck with the penalty miss, but in fairness, we defended unbelievably well. Despite Barcelona having all of the ball, they didn’t create the masses of clear cut chances I had envisioned at half time as I sat dreading the next 45 minutes of torture.
It was a strange second half which all seems a bit of a blur now. I did not even start imagining that we could hold out until I saw the clock at about 81 minutes and thought that we might just do it. They threw everything at us but could not score, our makeshift defence, made up of no natural centre backs, stood strong and defended as a unit. It was quite incredible to watch – tackles, interceptions, big headers, great saves, match winning blocks. Every Chelsea fan to a man was immensely proud, even if, like me, they were certain Barcelona would still sneak one in the remaining minutes.
In the end, what transpired will go down in Chelsea history. After 91 minutes of facing wave after wave of attacks from the best side in the world, 91 minutes of unspeakable stress and torture for Chelsea players and fans alike – Torres picks up a loose clearance and finds himself through on goal.
This was a quite farcical moment, everyone I was watching with, myself included, could not believe the situation Torres found himself in. His first touch was magnificent and then with the eyes of the world watching, the man who has faced unprecedented criticism from every angle over the past year, keeps his composure, rounds the keeper and tucks the ball away. After an 180 minute bombardment, having the weight of the best side in the world pushing down on all of us, all of a sudden, when that ball hit the net, it was immediately lifted – complete and utter relief and elation, we were through!
Once again, we have shown the world how to play Barcelona. You cannot go there and try and pass your way around them, you have to adjust to their style of play and contain them. We have proven yet again that we are the best in Europe at doing this. If they are the world-beaters most people would have you believe then they should be able to find a way around us over 180 minutes, especially if, like they say, our style of football does not merit winning football’s biggest trophy.
When the inevitable comments of lucky Chelsea get thrown at you over the next few days – remind people of this:
We have never lost to Barcelona in recent history with 11 men on the field.
We have beaten them more times in Europe than any other side.
We have not lost in any of our last 4 games at the nou camp.
We led Barcelona for over ¾ of the tie. Only going behind for a matter of minutes.
We scored 3 goals, they scored 2!
It does not matter by what means you attain these stats – football is a results business. Some of the rubbish in the foreign press over Chelsea’s 1st leg performance would have you believe that it is a moral footballing duty to go out to attack and try and outplay Barcelona at the nou camp. What utter s*it!
When you play the best side in the world, who play a brand of football that most can only dream of playing, you have to adjust. We had a game plan and executed it perfectly. It worked to a T. You have to have a slice of good fortune along the way and we duly got that, but who can really begrudge us that, given our recent history in this tournament.
Thankfully, last night was not about John Terry in the end. As far as I am concerned, he is now forgiven, because his punishment more than fits the crime.
He is now forced to miss out on leading his beloved side out in the European Cup final – not forgetting that this was probably his last ever chance of winning the trophy which has evaded him throughout his great career. He misses his chance to erase all of those painful personal memories. Luckily for everyone else involved with Chelsea, we do not!
Now to Munich!