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. FA chairman: England “might well bid for” Euro 2028

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:41 PM EDT

    greg_dyke Getty Images

    It’s 14 years off, but The FA is still planning to make a push.

  2. Europe League roundup: Everton big winners at home; Spurs left with draw on the road

    Sep 18, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    seamus_coleman AP

    Roberto Martinez makes an impressive European debut, while Mauricio Pochettino sees him team go without a shot on target.

  3. It’s not too late for Major League Soccer to turn away from its new logo

    Sep 18, 2014, 4:25 PM EDT

    don_garber_mls_logo AP

    MLS has admitted failure before. Today’s new art may prove to be another idea the league should cast off.

  4. Premier League Power Rankings: Red Devils and Villans on the up

    Sep 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    With Week four in the books, here’s how the PL teams stack up in our rankings of power.

  5. Reactions to “MLS Next” as North America’s top-flight launches rebrand

    Sep 18, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT

    MLS_crest_club_colors

    What are people saying about Major League Soccer’s new look?

  6. Arsene Wenger’s biggest regret is missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Everton v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Wenger: “I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo.”

  7. Auf Wiedersehen! Felix Magath out as Fulham boss after terrible tenure

    Sep 18, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT

    STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - MAY 03: Fulham manager Felix Magath reacts as his side are relegated following their defeat in the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Fulham at the Britannia Stadium on May 3, 2014 in Stoke on Trent, England. Getty Images

    After just four wins from 20 games, Fulham’s owner has seen enough from Magath.

  8. Brendan Rodgers on Liverpool’s growing pains: “There’s no magic formula”

    Sep 18, 2014, 12:37 PM EDT

    There's nothing nice about watching your side squander a three goal lead to end up with a draw. Getty Images

    Rodgers’ side have had an up and down start to the season. Is it the sign of things to come?

  9. Europa League preview: Will Everton, Tottenham reach knockout stages?

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:33 AM EDT

    tim_howard Getty Images

    Here’s what lies in store for Everton and Tottenham as Thursday night soccer begins.

  10. Taking back time: FIFA says officials must return expensive watches

    Sep 18, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Getty Images

    Parmigiani watches worth over $25,000 dished out by Brazilian federation to FIFA’s exec. members must be returned.

  11. Arsenal linked with three free agents, as defensive woes continue

    Sep 18, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    FC Lokomotiv Moscow v FC Zenit St. Petersburg - Premier League Getty Images

    Gunners need reinforcements in defense, so who are they making a move for?

  12. Ole Gunnar is gone: Solksjaer out as Cardiff City manager

    Sep 18, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT

    Blackburn Rovers v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    Norwegian boss let go after just 9 wins in 30 games in charge of the Bluebirds.

  13. Chelsea have Diego Costa injury concern

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

    Chelsea FC v FC Schalke 04 - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Star striker struggling with persistent hamstring problem ahead of Manchester City clash.

  14. PHOTO: MLS unveils new logo. What do you think?

    Sep 18, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

    MLSLogoEdit1

    What do you guys think of the brand new MLS logo?

  15. US move up one place in latest FIFA rankings; Wales the big winners

    Sep 18, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT

    Michael Orozco, Mix Diskerud, Matej vydra AP

    Klinsmann’s men move up after Czech Republic win. See where they’re ranked in the top 20.

  16. Fire-ravaged dog home claims Mario Balotelli made sizable donation

    Sep 17, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    Balo

    A dog home ravaged by fire last week believes Mario Balotelli has made a sizable donation.

  17. PST Extra: Sneak preview of Manchester City v. Chelsea

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    MC CH

    Joe Prince-Wright and myself sat down with Jenna Corrado to discuss what City and Chelsea each need to accomplish to secure victory.

  18. ‘We Will Speak English': Louis van Gaal’s instruction to Manchester United players

    Sep 17, 2014, 10:28 PM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    Looking for complete transparency, however, Van Gaal has laid down the law: English only.

  19. David Beckham’s Miami franchise could make big announcement on Thursday

    Sep 17, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    Former England soccer captain David Beckham attends the world premier of the film "The Class of 92" in London Reuters

    Marcelo Claure has hinted that news regarding a potential MLS franchise in Miami could soon be on it’s way.

  20. Jose Mourinho on Chelsea’s draw with Schalke: “That’s football”

    Sep 17, 2014, 8:42 PM EDT

    Mourinho AP

    “Remy could have scored, Terry could have scored, Hazard could have scored, but that’s football,” Mourinho said.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea