Apr 25, 2012, 8:35 AM EDT
Champions League soccer typically represents the game’s best version.
Yes, better that World Cup soccer; superior team cohesion and a higher level of player balance creates this sharper brand, not to mention an overall approach that generally leans more assertive, less cautious.
I tell people this all the time. Only yesterday’s eventful semifinal, full of brilliant talking points as it was, hardly made the case.
I still can’t quite figure out how to feel about Tuesday’s incredible night. Yes, Chelsea deserves credit for fortitude and finding a way, and praise rains effusive today across UK media stops. English soccer has long been hopelessly enamored with the blood-stained, desperate stand.
Only “blood-stained, desperate stand” is hardly how I prefer to see my Champions League semifinal play out. If we’re talking about Bolton needing a point to stave off relegation to a lower tier, bravely drawing its lines against mighty Manchester United or the like on a season’s final match day, then fine. But a moneyed team of Chelsea’s alleged quality?
In terms of what this means to the UEFA final in Munich, it’s like being presented with cough medicine or ice cream, knowing that either one will ease a sore throat – and choosing the cough medicine.
Yes, I understand the Blues were a man down on the road. And yet, building a line of six across the back, with two forwards stationed on the outside, is hardly the bright stuff of Champions League dreams.
All that said, it’s hard to reckon that Barcelona deserved to go through either. For all of the fabulous talent assembled at the Nou Camp, the Blaugrana simply failed in too many ways Tuesday to be considered among the most worthy finalists, either.
Shall we count the blue and deep red ways?
The goalkeeping wasn’t good enough. (By contrast, Chelsea’s Petr Cech wasn’t tested repeatedly Tuesday but certainly rose in the moments that mattered.)
Barcelona’s defending simply wasn’t good enough.
The tactics were wrong. Pep Guardiola’s over-thought 3-3-4 served only to stack more bodies along the black wall of death, a crowd of congested cleats drawn with anti-soccer purpose 20 yards from Chelsea goal.
But those were failures of the day; misdemeanor offenses compared to the felony crimes of a larger level.
Diversity of attack was sorely lacking Tuesday. True that its Barcelona’s beautiful style that makes Pep Guardiola’s side something special. It made Barca such a worthy and memorable champion a year ago. But it shouldn’t be carried like a burden, a precious cargo to be towed no matter the cost.
And yet, the ball went in, the ball went out. Again and again. With a curious, almost bizarre lack of bigger purpose. Hard-headed Barca was so dead-set determined to score the Barca way – and now they’ll have plenty of time to ponder the sorry consequences.
Shoot from beyond the 18? Not the Barca way, apparently. A few more speculative crosses, hoping to catch the visitors as they reorganized after the clearance? Nah.
Along those lines, at a bigger level, where in the world was Plan B? Going forward, Pep Guardiola simply must find one target player capable of changing the look periodically, or must otherwise find a way to be less systematically rigid when Plan A, stylish and pleasing to the eye as it can be, isn’t working.
So five things went wrong Tuesday from Barcelona’s side, undercutting the wealth of skill and smarts developed and gathered majestically at the Catalan home of soccer:
Goalkeeping not good enough; defending not good enough; over-cooked tactics; lack of diversity of attack; lack of a plan B.
But there was one more missing element (again, giving Chelsea proper credit for fiercely navigating the difficult night – even if they’ll be fighting in the Munich final with the shortest of sticks due to injury and suspensions):
Leo Messi picked an awful night to have a stinker.
That’s not Barcelona’s fault, and it’s probably not Messi’s fault, either. That just happens in the game from time to time. The timing in this semifinal case was just tremendously, notoriously ironic.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT
Could this be on account of overseas interest, or is he just ready to go closer to home?
Jul 29, 2015, 7:14 PM EDT
The Azerbaijani champions nearly walked out of Celtic Park with a deadlock, but Boyata’s second goal in as many games did the trick.
Jul 29, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT
Rog and Davo pod from Chelsea vs. Barcelona at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Chelsea captain John Terry guests.
Jul 29, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT
It might be old hat for Drogba, but it’s pretty nutty for us.
Jul 29, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
Tranquillo Barnetta is set to join Maurice Edu in the Philadelphia Union’s engine room, as the 30-year-old Bundesliga veteran makes his move on a free transfer.
Jul 29, 2015, 3:55 PM EDT
How different will City’s lineup look at the end of August? It’s hard to project anything without that knowledge, but we’ll make an attempt.
Jul 29, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Robbie Brady and James Chester are leaving the Championship side for new homes back in England’s top flight.
Jul 29, 2015, 2:16 PM EDT
JPW discusses the chances that Norwich City, Bournemouth, and Watford have of staying up next season.
Jul 29, 2015, 1:41 PM EDT
The latest news around the soccer world.
Jul 29, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT
After losing his place at The Emirates last year, the 25-year-old will take a crack at proving himself again in Italy.
Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT
Can Rodgers and the Reds bounce back to finish in the top four and win some silverware this season? His job might depend on it.
Jul 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT
Mr. Mourinho and Mrs. Benitez are having a verbal battle via the press. This will not end well.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT
Mourinho suffers two injuries to key players in Chelsea’s final game of U.S. tour.
Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT
Ranieri has a big job on his hands to keep the Foxes out of the relegation zone. Can he succeed at the KP?
Jul 29, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT
Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.
Jul 29, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT
Oh Eden, stop it. Check out his latest piece of genius.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT
Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
Thank goodness Haris Vuckic’s brother follows his career over the web.
Jul 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT
Something tell us the exhibit won’t bring in the same sort of interest as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but it does fit the bill of organized crime.
- Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s John Terry joins Rog and Davo 0
- Swiss star Barnetta moves to MLS; Orlando City signs a pair of Europeans 0
- Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester City 0
- VIDEO: PST Extra – What should we expect from the Premier League’s promoted three? 0
- Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool 2
- VIDEO: Chelsea’s Eden Hazard dances around Barcelona to score magical goal 0