Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

The first sound that woke me up this morning was the battery charger guy beside my house shouting “any Barca die by fire!” It was a shout that resounded throughout the evening as Chelsea, one man down after John Terry’s regrettable red card, held on the “Spanish Armada” Barcelona for 50 odd minutes and still managed to put two goals through. Chelsea had gone into the game with a goal ahead courtesy of a Drogba goal in the first leg at Stanford Bridge, but this was a game that even the , most optimistic of Chelsea fans were not expecting to down or be over easily. At a viewing center where I watched the match, the normally loud and boisterous Chelsea fans remained mute and solemn, praying perhaps to all gods of soccer to come to the aid of a team that pundits and analysts had termed, and rightly so, the underdogs in the tie.

It was a nail biting experience, as Barcelona stepped up their usual tempo of all out football, with center back Puyol spending more time in the Chelsea half hoping and helping to keep Chelsea harassed and forced to defend as wave after wave of Barcelona players tried to pass through, slice in and tip balls over the Chelsea defenders who one must add proved unyielding in their resolve to keep Barcelona attacks from coming to fruition. The wall would not keep out the constant barrage from Barcelona though, as a square play found Sergio Busquets free on the left, and he sliced in a perfect finish to send the Spanish holders 1 goal up and tied with Chelsea 1-1 on aggregate. Two minutes later, the gods of soccer seemed to turn their back on Chelsea, as Captain Terry was shown a straight red card for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the back. This gave Barcelona a one man advantage, and heightened their belief that they could undertake a Chelsea massacre and go on unto the Champions League final. Their fortunes would get better, the Chelsea defense devoid of two center backs who started the game, after Cahill’s seeming hamstring pull, and Terry’s red card, would fall to another classic Barcelona goal via Iniesta in the 44th minute.

Now all hope seemed lost for Chelsea, and all expected Barcelona to keep on scoring and finish off Chelsea who were defending at the back with a trio of Ivanovic, Ashley Cole and Bosingwa (the weakest link in the team, if you ask any Chelsea fan), Drogba had dropped deep to cover the left full back position and Ramires was doing his best on the other wing. He was to be the harbinger of the “Miracle of Camp Nou” after all, a pass “like a hot knife through butter” from Lampard found Ramires who had sprinted forward with the flow of play, and he stayed true to his Brazilian roots, chipping the ball over the head of Barca goalkeeper Valdes in the 46th minute to put the game at 2-1, and 2-2 on aggregate. The game was on now! Chelsea, if the game ended as it stood, would qualify for the finals ahead of Barcelona on the away goal rule.

Roberto Di Matteo, who some have called the leader of the Chelsea renaissance after the misfortunes of former team manager Villas Boas, must have given one half time talk to his players that steadied their resolve to defend and defend and defend in the second half. Barely three minutes into the 2nd half however, Didier Drogba was judged to have felled Fabregas in the penalty box and Lionel Messi scorer of 14 goals so far in the competition this season, but who hitherto had not scored a goal past Chelsea keeper Peter Cech, stepped up to do the honors. It was to be a disheartening attempt however, as Chelsea were again saved by the wood work, their 12th player like some have said over the weeks. From then on Barcelona kept up the attack; certain that their failure to score another goal would destine them to a season without any major honor save for the Copa Del Rey.

Ten minutes from time, Di Matteo adjudged that Chelsea could not go on defending for all the time left , and sent in Torres to replace “defender” Drogba. It was to be a fortuned substitution, as in the dying moments of the match Torres ran forward via a clearance from the back to him at midfield and cut past the Barcelona goal keeper Valdes to score a goal that most Chelsea fans argued was worth his fifty million pounds sign on fee. That goal decided the match, as Chelsea were now up 3-2 on aggregate and would have gone ahead to the finals if Barcelona had managed to score another goal, having scored two away goals. As the referee brought the match to an end, it was jubilation and joy all over the Chelsea side as this victory, reminiscent of the 2005 Liverpool victory over AC Milan in Istanbul in its emotional significance, ensured that Chelsea would go on to play in the UEFA champions league final one more time.

It had been a stormy road for Chelsea up to this point, turned around since their victory over Napoli in the 2nd round stages of the competition and made more spectacular by being the second time Chelsea would be qualifying for a UEFA Champions League final under an Interim manager.

Over here in Lagos, Nigeria, fans went wild with elation; horns honked, Okada riders gave free rides, and crates of beer flowed like it was water amongst the Chelsea fans. Barcelona fans sulked, the long bitter walk of shame home in their Barcelona replica jerseys before them; some had even lost bets of up to N30, 000!! Who would have thought that Chelsea would come from two goals and a man down, to score two goals against almighty Barcelona, especially in front of their fans at Camp Nou? To mar the good news however, news filtered in via twitter that a bomb blast had occurred at a viewing center in Jos, Nigeria, Channels TV would go on to confirm that 1 fan had died as a result of the bombing in the morning. It was a testament to the growing insecurity in Nigeria, but somewhat selfishly it would not take away from the joy of Chelsea’s victory. A club many believe have done England proud in European competitions this season. England had once again defeated the Spanish armada, and this time, commanding Her Majesty’s fleet was “Sir” Roberto Di Matteo.