Skip to content

Barcelona versus Chelsea, the ghost of Ørevbø, and unrestrained revisionism

Apr 18, 2012, 3:32 AM EDT

Barcelona's midfielder Andres Iniesta ta Getty Images

With Barcelona back at Stamford Bridge for the first time in four years, it’s natural to take some time to remember the 93rd minute goal that sent Barcelona to Rome in 2009. With hindsight, the 20-yard blast from Andrés Iniesta serves as the symbolic beginning to Barça’s three years of world soccer dominance. It’s understandable that we’d use the Blaugrana’s return to West London as an opportunity to reflect on such a seminal event.

Only that’s not what has happened. Instead, you’ve been more likely to read the name Tom Henning Ørevbø than commentaries contextualizing Iniesta’s injury time rocket, which is pathetic. The Finnish referee who officiated Barcelona’s last venture to Stamford Brdige, Tom Henning Ørevbø should never take precedence over Andrés Iniesta.

What would have happened if Ørevbø’s made the right calls, the coverage wistfully implies, not bothering to question whether the premise is correct. Was Chelsea so wronged by the officials’ perceived mistakes that now, three years later, we should be treating this match as some kind of breaking point? What happened to all the other matches we’ve complained about over the years? Why aren’t we dusting off that indignation every time there’s a rematch?

Perhaps those matches stay in the closet because they didn’t happen in Champions League. They didn’t happen between Barcelona and Chelsea, and they didn’t happen in the capital of the English language-speaking soccer world.

It’s too easy to remember Michael Ballack assailing Ørevbø. It’s too easy to remember Didier Drogba’s post match tantrum. Did Eric Abival maybe get a harsh red card in that match? I don’t know. I forget. I haven’t seen that video in a while. I only know what I’ve seen over and over again, and after three years, I’m matching the story to those behaviors.

Surely, nobody would react like this unless they were truly wronged:

Never mind all the other times Chelsea has mustered disproportionately strong reactions to on-field setbacks. Particularly when Ballack was a regular at Stamford Bridge, no official was safe. It’s an attitude that not only can be traced back to José Mourinho’s days at Chelsea but has been endemic to all of Mourinho’s sides. The 2009 outbursts were the problem, not the symptom.

And so we’re left with a confluence of factors that have shaped history. You’ve got a high stakes event, clash of styles that fuels the fire, referee that seems to miss some calls, and team infamous for their on-field conniptions. Three years later, when the edges of our pictures are worn round like corners of old baseball cards, we’re left with an image painted by the most invested: Chelsea was cheated.

And they say history’s written by the victors. In this case, it was written by those who just kept talking.

What would have happened if Chelsea had held on? For the first time ever, there would have been a Champions League final rematch. Chelsea would have met Manchester United in Rome and either fulfilled the destiny Roman Abramovich bought or made United, winners of back-to-back Champions League titles, the blueprint for world soccer. As Graham Hunter recently noted to the BBC, Barcelona likely changes course, concluding they can’t compete with England’s strength in Europe. With their hybrid of Barcelona style and English strength, they end up trying to beat Real Madrid at their own game, a fight they’re not likely to win.

And we, the fans, lose out on three years of the best soccer we’ve ever seen. And rather than clubs all over the world trying to emulate Barcelona’s approach, we’re left with every team defaulting to double pivots, likely filled with converted central defenders. Does that sound exciting to you?

Of course, none of that has anything to do with Chelsea – and no Blues supporter wants to hear that their club’s loss was good for the game – but there’s no need for all the revisionism we’ve been subjected to over the last three days. Better to just focus on Wednesday, when two very different, very changed sides will take the pitch at Stamford Bridge.

Though many of Barça’s lead actors remain the same (Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol, most prominently), they’ve gone from soccer hipsters devoted to early-70s style to an anachronism. Whereas the last hundred years of soccer have seen teams devote more and more personnel to defense, Barcelona’s recently turned the clock back 60 years. They’ve started playing four forwards (in a 3-3-4) just years after people were asking if one forward (4-5-1) was taking over the world. While many have suggested they’ll revert to four defenders (and a 4-3-3) against Chelsea, the motivation for deploying more attackers remains the same. The Blues are likely to sit back and make this into an affair where one or two counters can decide it, just like every other team that’s motivated Pep Guardiola to put his team in a time machine.

With Barcelona’s lack of strength in midfield, it would be ill-advised for Chelsea to do otherwise. While it’s tempting to say “if Barcelona’s going to be so attack-minded, we can be aggressive and try to catch them,” Chelsea has nobody in the middle of the park who can actually execute that vision. They don’t have a deep-lying distributor in the Andrea Pirlo mold. They don’t have a creator like Luka Modric. They have workhorses: Ramires, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard.

If Chelsea approaches their semifinal as they did 2009’s, it wouldn’t be the worst approach. Teams like Rubin Kazan and Inter Milan have had success relying on execution in transition. Teams that have tried to play with Barcelona? They’ve been less successful, with only Real Madrid feigning a challenge.

We might rue Chelsea sitting back, waiting for their chances, but it’s probably the best approach. The odds are long, but at least there are odds there.

But whatever happens, would it be too much to ask that we get though Wednesday’s broadcast without a mention of Tom Henning Ørevbø?

Chelsea vs. Barcelona kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET on FX (not FOX Soccer). Just like yesterday, PST will be with you for live coverage through today’s game.

Latest Posts
  1. VIDEO: Peru take early lead. Is USMNT’s Omar Gonzalez to blame?

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT

    Brad Guzan Brad Guzan

    U.S. trailed 1-0 at the break after this goal from Chavez via Gonzalez’s back.

  2. Reports: Pogba turned down Chelsea move despite offer of $275,000 per week

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Juventus v S.S. Lazio - 2015 Italian Super Cup Getty Images

    Paul Pogba was wanted by every club in the world this summer, but even some pretty massive wages couldn’t bring him to leave Juventus.

  3. FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT takes on Peru in important tune-up match (Lineups)

    Sep 4, 2015, 7:02 PM EDT

    Panama v United States Getty Images

    Tonight’s match may be a friendly, but it’s way more than that for Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States.

  4. Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor fails to report for international duty with Togo

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:57 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-FA CUP-TOTTENHAM-LEICESTER Getty Images

    After being essentially cut from Tottenham, Adebayor was a no-show for his national team.

  5. EURO 2016 qualifying roundup: Germany downs Poland, Keane sets records for Ireland

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwixmde5zjc2mta3nmi0yta0zmmwngnmothlmmzhntnh AP

    Mario Gotze’s brace led Germany to a big win at home, while Robbie Keane became the all-time leading goalscorer in EURO qualifying history.

  6. Manchester United calls Real Madrid’s handling of De Gea transfer “clumsy”

    Sep 4, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwnjytliymewnjuzzwnjogm3mjrmytc1nzawmja3ytu3 AP

    The transfer window may have closed, but the war of words between Manchester United and Real Madrid is still going strong.

  7. Bournemouth’s record-signing Tyrone Mings ruled out for rest of season with knee injury

    Sep 4, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Bournemouth v Philadelphia Union Getty Images

    A massive loss for the Cherries as Tyrone Mings’ season is over after tearing his ACL and MCL against Leicester City.

  8. WATCH: On Japan duty, Shinji Kagawa flubs a sitter of the most comfortable variety

    Sep 4, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Cambodia's goalkeeper Sou Yaty falls on the ground upon getting a goal by Japan's Shinji Kagawa (10), top second right, as Japan's Yoshinori Muto (14), Cambodia's Say Piseth (4) and others look back during their second round soccer match of regional qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Saitama, north of Tokyo Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Japan defeated Cambodia 3-0 to secure its first win of World Cup qualifying. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT AP

    We need a bigger term than sitter for this Japan miss. Sofa? Futon? Beanbag chair?

  9. With two friendlies before the Confederations Cup playoff, who should be the USMNT’s center back pair?

    Sep 4, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT

    FILE - In this Nov. 19, 2013 file photo, the United States national soccer team poses prior to the start their friendly soccer match between Austria and the United States in Vienna, Austria. Background from left: Omar Gonzalez, Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley and Brek Shea. Foreground from left: Jermaine Jones, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Aron Johannsson and Jozy Altidore.  (AP Photo/Hans Punz, File) AP

    The USMNT’s Tinkerman takes a lot of risks with his formation and use of his best players (See: Bradley, Michael), but there is at least one area where we just don’t get it: center backs.

  10. PHOTO: Can this cigarette disposal unit end the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate (at least in London)?

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT

    CNaarYiWoAAxXqT

    Who knew we could’ve settled this whole thing ages ago, just by asking smokers in England?

  11. CONCACAF World Cup qualifying preview: Canada, Jamaica hope to avoid upsets; USMNT to learn group mates

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    HOUSTON, TX - JULY 11:  Cyle Larin #21 of Canada avoids pressure from Jermaine Taylor #21 of Jamaica and Je-Vaughan Watson #15 at BBVA Compass Stadium on July 11, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Yanks will face the winners of two two-legged ties: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines vs. Aruba, and Antigua and Barbuda vs. Guatemala.

  12. WATCH: New Spurs forward Son’s hat trick helps South Korea let loose on Laos

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT

    South Korea's Son Heung-min, right, scores his first goal as Laos's Pinkeo Khamla tries to block it during their Asian zone Group G qualifying soccer match for the 2018 World Cup at  Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium in Hwaseong, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. South Korea won 8-0.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) AP

    Son scored in the 12th, 74th and 89th minutes of South Korea’s 8-0 win over Laos in AFC World Cup qualifying on Thursday.

  13. MLS preview: Sounders vs. Toronto FC, Crew SC vs. FC Dallas headline Week 27

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders FC

    Week 27 is upon, and though international call-ups have decimated a number of teams, this weekend’s MLS action should still be decent.

  14. Real Madrid’s Perez says De Gea move failed because Manchester United lacks transfer “experience”

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT

    MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 09:  Real Madrid President Florentino Perez gives as speech as he attends the 7th edition of the 'Catedra Real Madrid' Project at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on June 9, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Perez says a move that should’ve taken an hour “took eight”, and blasted the Red Devils’ chairman by using examples from 2013.

  15. Providence and its big American striker Mac Steeves are off to a red-hot start (video)

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne) PC Men's soccer versus Monmouth, Aug. 30, 2015. (Photo/Stew Milne)

    A 6-foot-4 American striker has Providence aiming for another College Cup, and U.S. Soccer fans on notice.

  16. Now flush with “Candy Crush” cash, Derby County aiming for Premier League return

    Sep 3, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    Derby County v Reading - Capital One Cup Third Round Getty Images

    As it turns out, Candy Crush was worth a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that Mel Morris bought his boyhood football club.

  17. Preview: USMNT to face Peru in tune-up for CONCACAF playoff vs. Mexico

    Sep 3, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT

    Panama v United States: Third Place - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Panama v United States: Third Place - 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

    The USMNT returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup. Their playoff vs. Mexico is 37 days away.

  18. Italy’s Serie B to introduce “green cards” for good behavior this weekend

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    Modena FC v AC Cesena - Serie B Playoffs Getty Images

    This weekend, referees will begin dishing out green cards, which mean absolutely nothing.

Featured video

PST Extra: Analyzing transfer deadline day