A Tale of two Semis’

Posted: May 7, 2009 in Football
Tags: , , , , , ,

After the 1st leg, both of the CL semis were finely in the balance, with Man U & Chelsea holding slight a slight edge as the action moved to London this week. But what followed in both the matches was totally contrasting. Man U demolished the Gunners at the Emirates stadium, while Barca struck a last-gasp equalizer at Stamford Bridge to edge a tie mired by controversy over the abject refereeing of Tom Henning Ovrebo from Norway who refused as many as 4 clear-cut penalty appeals from furious Chelsea players. The end result after all the madness was a CL final line-up which is a football aficionado’s dream.

Going into its tie with Arsenal, Alex Ferguson must have been quietly confident that his side could get a positive result from its visit to Emirates on Tuesday. But, history was against Fergie’s team. Arsenal had not lost at Emirates in CL before, and Man U had not managed to win at the emirates in 4 previous visits, managing 1 draw and 3 losses. However with probably his best team at this disposal and injuries to the gunners back four, this presented Man U’s best chance to correct history, and boy did they do in emphatic style!!

Two goals within the 1st 15 minutes knocked out Arsenal cold and silenced a boisterous crowd. It was a bit like Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Ricky Hatton on Sunday at the MGM Grand. Bang – Bang and it was all over too quickly!!

Ronaldo’s brilliant 3rd from a counter attack was an icing on the cake. It took just 13 seconds from the time Vidic won a header inside his penalty area to score a brilliant goal. Ronaldo did a nice back heel to start the attack and was at the right place to put the ball from Rooney into the back of the net. The United team looked really sharp and Ronaldo put in one of his performances of the season. It is all gradually falling into place for United after a huge wobble in late March and April. The old swagger in attack is back and the defense is looking really solid with Rio and Vida back together.

United’s only sour note of the match was the needless dismissal of Fletcher which could mean that he misses the final at Rome.

Enough has already been said about the referee’s harsh decision and I feel that it would be a gross injustice if the young man is robbed of his dream appearance in a CL final. He may probably never get another chance in his career, in which case it will be plainly cruel! UEFA’s ridiculous response about not opening a Pandora’s Box by reviewing Fletcher’s case is just rubbish. Well, you cannot expect any sanity from an organization headed by the bumbling Platini, can you?

Moving on to next Semi, Chelsea got a lead through a stunning volley from Michael Essien. This guy just exemplifies the heart and soul of Chelsea football club, more than anyone else.

But, Chelsea sat back and parked a bus in its penalty area, preferring to hit Barca on the counter attack. Even though Barca launched waves of attack, it was always vulnerable at the back. However, Dorgba missed several gilt edged to put Barca away through his poor finishing. In the end his lack of composure in front of the goal came back to haunt him in big way.

The Norwegian referee too seemed intent on making the tie interesting by waving aside several Chelsea claims for clear-cut penalties. To be fair to the bloke, he just had an awful match. Chelsea’s claims of partiality and conspiracy deserve nothing but the sternest condemnation. They just didn’t get the rub of the green on the night. Barca too had several decisions going against them. Abidal should have been sent off earlier, but ended up being sent off for a non-existent foul in the 2nd half. In fact, I feel that Chelsea’s incessant moaning as well as Drogba’s frequent diving was chief reason for Mr. Ovrebo to distrust Chelsea’s claims.

Drogba, a self-professed diver tried putting on an Oscar winning performance, going to the ground as if lighting had struck him whenever a Barca player breathes near him! With every rejected claim, Chelsea players got more and more agitated, putting further pressure on the referee. In the end, as luck would have it, Inniesta scored a brilliant goal deep into injury-time leaving Stamford Bridge stunned.

Astonishingly, there was enough time for one more rejected penalty claim before the final whistle before the gripping tie came to an end.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not even for a second trying to justify the referee’s actions. Chelsea should have been the deserved winners. But, what I am trying to say is that Chelsea players have only themselves to blame for their defeat. They paid the price for not killing off Barca earlier. One can’t expect to defend a 1 – 0 lead against the team of the quality of Barca for so long in a match.

However, the behavior of a few Chelsea players after the final whistle should not be tolerated and must be sternly dealt with. Drogba should be banned from all European Competition for a long, long time after his petulant display last night at the end of the game. I think a minimum of 10 games will set the tone and show everyone that this kind of behavior from high profile players is not allowed or accepted. It was nothing short of embarrassing and I feel sorry for the image that this now gives to the world about Chelsea and the way their players behave. It is unacceptable and shocking behavior, and does not show youngsters wanting to break into the game how to behave.

The referee made a few high profile mistakes and should be punished according by UEFA, not manhandled by immature, overpaid prima-donna’s. The latest talk going rounds is that this is all an UEFA conspiracy against another all English final. What a load of crap!! I think it is time that that UEFA makes an example out of Drogba, Ballack, Terry and the rest of their tribe. Drogba should be made to think twice before he jumps even in a swimming pool in the future. Ballack should be made to realize that come what may, laying his hands on a referee again is a big mistake!!

Come on UEFA and FIFA, are you listening for a change. Please take stern action in this matter and show everyone that it is not a conspiracy!!!

  1. Srinath R says:

    I sternly bel that whatever chelsea had done is not because they didn’t know how to behave but rather the referees in-capability to manage such a big game and that has been justified by the players post match behaviour.

    If it were a competitive referee and not some mobo-jumbo from a norwegian seccond division I bel the referee would have been in total control and this kind of behaviour wouldn’t have been expected.

    I feel extremely sorry for the chelsea players and fans and barca have been extremely lucky to come of and to face Manchester United in the Final. It is nothing but time that will prove to them that just show booting and giving reviews that they are the best and stuff like that doesnt actual take them no where and bring them to their senses. That is now in the hands of Manchester United.

    If a team is the best they dont go about saying they are the best its for the others to justify that. The team just needs to carry on with the game!!

    • Aravind Krishnan says:

      U r trying to defend the indefensible!! As Intl players, these guys should know how to behave!! There r enough avenues for airing ones dissent. Hounding the ref is simply just not on. And, the ref is not any mumbo-jumbo from Norwegian 2nd division like terry accused. He has refereed several Intl matches. He just had a bad game, plain and simple. Any guy will break under the horrendous hounding of the chelsea players and a hostile crowd that day.

      I too feel sorry for Chelsea players and Guss Hiddink. But that’s the beauty of sports. The best team does not always win. One needs luck too. That’s what makes it unpredictable and great fun!! But, Barca is a worthy finalist. I can’t believe u feel they are just a over-hyped team. On song, they are simply un-stoppable!! Pure poetry in motion!!! Remember, they didn’t have their 1st choice defense as well as Henry at the bridge. Their form this season speaks volumes of their class and ability. They have a class of their own in the La liga. Scoring 100 goals in a season with 4 more matches to go cannot be just hype!!

      I just think that u r letting this one match cloud ur judgment on Barca!!

      PS: Thanks for visiting my blog!!

  2. Srinath.V says:

    You got the chelsea game spot on!!! Gr8 write up man!

    At the end of the day Ch had a gr8 chance to win the game but finishing has always been there pain area over the years (only Lamp seems to be an exception)

    I will go with Srinath R’s view on the ref but if you had finished it in the first place you would not need to depend on the ref’s mood swings!!!

    The manager got it right, with the formation and the play, counter was the best way to go as Barca were not making good use of possession!! For all the pre match hype about Barca’s attackers were made to look stupid by the defensive walls build by Ch

    Being a Ch fan I feel sad but at the same time its “time for a change”, few of the old boys need to be shown the door. The core line of the team seems to be in tact but would need some pace and creativity like the good old days of Robbin and Duff! (Full backs use to fear crossing the half way line with those 2 around)

  3. Bilal says:

    If this is what you really wrote…then u deserve to replace atleast few in espn correspondents….

    • Aravind Krishnan says:

      @ Bilal: Yep my original writing, thanks. I guess I was hiding in the closet all along!!!!

  4. Ravi says:

    HI guys…. No doubt the 4 best teams were on display in the CL semi’s but at the end of the day in any sport only one team wins… Whether they are the best team or not on that night is a diderent matter specaiily when the record books show who the shinning knight was–

    MAN U were by far the better team when compared to Arsenal both on paper and certainly much better on field.. The way they attack, defend and control the midfield is certainly a treat to watch.. They certainly deserve to be in the CL finals…

    However Barca and Chelsea have quite a history in CL matches… At the end even if Chelsea lost, you have got to give credit to them… Five CL semi finals in a row is a greatfeat and if you watched the game they totally squared off ETO, MESSI out of the game,, Even if they played from the back and had only 35% possession thay created the best chances of the game… Remember forwards like Messi, Eto, Iniesta, Xabi have scored more than 120 goals in all this season and to hold them at bay without giving them even one shot at the goal (of course till 92nd min) tells about their great defending capbilities.. Note Barca have been unstoppable in entire Europe recently handing Real a 6 goal drubbing.. Even being a die hard Barca fan the heart still goes out Chelsea.. BUt Drogba has lost them the biggest matches and it is time to look beyond him…

    However with one team to win .. i think Manu and Barca win really reflect that fotball is a beautiful game and the beautiful game won on these nights.. It makes a fitting finale of the two best fotball clubs at the moment..

  5. Aravind Krishnan says:

    Ravi, that was too good man! Well said..
    Any chance u r coming down here for the finals? It’s going to be awesome!!!!

  6. Ravi says:

    Hi… I just happened to see the match between Valencia and Real Madrid… Real really got another bad drubbing…. JUst wondering the form of Real this season… Finishing second in the La liga seems fine but the way they have been mauled by Liverpool, Barca and now Valencia has been horrifying for their fans… They should learn it that you can not buy stars and make a great fotaball team… You have to build teams over a few years… Take the example of Barca, ManU, Arsenal and Liverpool– these guys invest time in players (of course along with money)… You have to nurture and grow young talent into world class players.. (look at ManU young brigade, Fabregas, Messi, Torres – all have taken the world stage)… However Real do not seem to learn from their Galactico debacle days…

    Another point has been the Iker Casillas goal keeping form… No doubt he is a world class goalie and at this level you are exepected to make some stunning saves at some games… However his form has been unbelievable… If you watch the big matches, he has made some of the best goal saves of this year… Incase there is poll of best saves i bet out of 5, 3 will be casillas’s… But for his form and brilliance Real would have been 8 goals down on each of these big matches… Fabio Cannavaro and all the defence should pay him homage for his heroics for keeping their jobs alive… He has been the best in the world but placed in a great team at at very bad time..

    As Mark Knoplfer sang” May be it was just that – the time was wrong”

    • Aravind Krishnan says:

      @Ravi: Iker Casillas is the best goal keeper in the world by a mile. Madrid has the flawed policy of always going after established stars, never building a team. A case in point is their current pursuit of Ronaldo at the risk of alienating their existing stars.

      Constant chopping and changing of managers does not also help….

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