So my Champions League predictions have gone horribly wrong at the semi-final stage, reminding me yet again why I don’t bet on football.
I put this down to a number of things, but mostly it was the failure of the Spanish sides to take their chances. I believe in chances. I’m a firm believer that you only get so many and if you’re wasteful it will come back and kick you somewhere unpleasant with the devastating force of the first person you fell in love with trampling all over your poor vulnerable heart.
Heartbreak for the El Clasico rivals, who have both inflicted their fair share of it over the years, does not evoke any sympathy from me.
Real Madrid conceded a stupid late goal against Bayern when Mario Gomez scored (he always scores) and made their task far harder than it needed to be, then they couldn’t take their chances during the game and made the horrible mistake of taking a German side to penalties.
Taking a German side to penalties is tactical suicide. You’re going to lose. Mourinho should have done more to try and win the game in extra-time, they should have been playing 8 strikers with Casillas as sweeper, doesn’t matter if you lose in extra time, because you’re going to lose on penalties. The trouble is, when you’re a team filled with as much talent as Madrid, you always think you have a chance on pens so you hold back when you should go for the jugular because you’re worried about losing in extra-time and then ze Germans have you.
Sergio Ramos stepped up, now moments ago I was talking about how many talented players Madrid have, apparently not enough to stop Ramos taking a penalty, he did a brilliant impression of the likes of Waddle, Baresi and Robbie Baggio and hammered his kick straight over the bar. A couple of Bayern players also missed to keep it interesting, but Manuel Neuer saved Ronaldo’s and Kaka’s pens to largely ensure victory before Ramos launched his rocket.
Chelsea broke Barcelona. Ramires finish in the Camp Nou broke football. Di Matteo broke Guardiola. Lampard broke Fabregas. Terry broke his already broken reputation, then stamped on it, then took out a big pneumatic road drill of an excuse and preceded to smash his reputation into pieces so small there were barely visible to the naked eye.
Obviously there has been lots written about how Chelsea knocked out Barcelona but I feel that among the media hysteria both home and abroad there has been one glaring omission from the coverage. Chelsea took their chances. It’s OK to label them as “super-defensive” “park the bus” “anti-football” but there is only an element of truth to it. Let me put it this way, Chelsea over the two games playing their “super-defensive” strategy scored 3 goals, Barcelona playing their total-passing-football-wank-a-thon only scored 2. Now I am happy to point out that 3 is more than 2, so Chelsea didn’t even need the luxury of the away goals rule to go through.
Even Fernando Torres scored. Chelsea were down to ten men, 2-0 down, away at Barcelona and going out of the Champions League. To try and paint it as anything other than a phenomenal performance from Chelsea is wrong. The goal Ramires scored was the best of the tie, the pass from Lampard, the power of the run from deep and the quality of the finish were extraordinary, if that’s anti-football then I want to see more of it please.
Silly Bookings Stupid Rules
There are so many players missing the final. This is because they picked up 2 yellow cards and thus receive a one match ban. This was a stupidly unfair rule back in the 90’s and caused no end of good players to miss the final, the most memorable for me was both Roy Keane and Paul Scholes missing for Manchester United in their famous 2-1 win.
It’s even more silly now, when you can pick up a yellow card for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Petr Cech got a yellow for picking a ball up from behind his goal, in shades of Robin Van Persie’s kicking the ball away yellow it was a classic refereeing decision that you get as the away side at the Camp Nou. Thankfully Cech won’t miss the final because of such a booking, but there are others who will.
Obviously this does not extend to John Terry, who for reasons passing understanding decided to knee Sanchez in the back. Terry is not known for being subtle. This was an act of thuggery from a moron. There are times as a defender when it’s massively to your advantage to kick someone. Be it a “reducer” or a “let him know he’s in a game” tackle some challenges are by definition about more than simply winning the ball. Terry didn’t have a ball to win, an off the ball incident is incredibly stupid, especially when you’re near your own box with both the assistant referee and the penalty box official watching on.
It’s hard to gauge Terry’s reasoning, which perhaps is the biggest mistake. I don’t think he had any reasons, it was the action of a man who when faced with someone he really didn’t like took the opportunity to hit him without thinking about the fact that it would almost certainly lead to his sending off. It speaks volumes for the character of John Terry. Worse still, he then comes out and tries to make an excuse for it. That’s big of you John, that’s really big of you, what a leader you are!
Bayern are at home. They don’t often lose at home, even less often in Europe. The only English team ever to win a European tie at Bayern Munich? Norwich City. So perhaps Chelsea can tempt Jeremy Goss out of retirement to aid their chances. The thing is, due to the cynical distribution of tickets away from fans by UEFA, using their show-piece club final to please their numerous sponsors, this will disrupt the Bayern support which should hopefully dampen the atmosphere a bit from a regular Bayern home game.
I reckon Chelsea will play in a similar way to the way they approached the Spurs F.A Cup semi-final. Bayern are a team with quick wingers and a big striker with full-backs that love to bomb forward much like Spurs. The trouble is Munich are better than Spurs. Gomez is lethal and nearly always scores. Robben and Ribery are genuine world-class game changers and Bastian Schweinsteiger is a truly intimidating presence in the middle. Then you’ve got to get past Manuel Neuer who for my money is the best goalkeeper in the world, and they are playing at home.
On the face of things it doesn’t look great for Chelsea, of course Bayern are missing players, but then so are Chelsea. However, it looks to me that for Chelsea to come away with a victory it will take a backs-to-the-wall defensive display with deadly counter-attacking football played to the highest standard against a team that nobody really expects them to beat. Having produced that against Barcelona, I would bet on them doing it again in Munich and wrecking Bayern’s party. Then again, there’s a reason I don’t bet on football…