Didier Drogba isn’t having one of his best season. In fact, it’s probably his worst since he began his Chelsea career. But all that didn’t matter. Great players have short memories. Great players rise to the occasion. Didier Drogba scored two minutes into injury time of the first half, giving Chelsea a lucky 1-0 win over Barcelona in the Champions League Semi Final.
Chelsea hardly saw any possession, losing 21-79 in that department. But it didn’t matter. Barcelona controlled the match from start to finish, but Lionel Messi always had someone between him and Cech, who was sublime in his concentration and saves. When that failed, the post was there to deny Barcelona a very late equalizer.
Did Di Matteo find some magic formula to beat Barcelona? Not even close. Defending with 10 men, but that’s not nearly enough. Always someone able to cover for a beaten defender, always someone willing to put his body between the shot and the goal. Sounds simple, but very few teams actually manage to shut out Barca, who started doing the heavy pushing a bit too late.
Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez will probably like to forget their time on the pitch, missing a few sitters in front of Cech. Barcelona had 24 shots at goal, most of them blocked by Ivanovic, Cahill and John Terry in a brave and committed performance from all three. Barcelona’s one mistake was costly, as a Messi turnover turned into a quick counter attack, with Ramires coming through once again in his new found role, further away from the middle.
He chased down the long ball, and connected with the storming Didier Drogba. Drogba’s shot wasn’t accurate, but powerful enough to beat Victor Valdes, who didn’t get enough of a touch on the ball. That was Chelsea’s only attempt on goal, but luckily for them, they didn’t need anymore.
Ugly football? Chelsea did try and venture out a bit during the first half, but Barcelona simply locked them down in their own half for most of the second half. Defending with every available body was the only way to come out with a win. It cost Chelsea only two yellow cards, in a physical yet smart defending scheme, which kept Barcelona out of the box for almost the entire evening. Messi couldn’t find his usual weaving way through to a comfortable one on one. When he found open players, they couldn’t come up with a good enough shot.
Chelsea have only lost one of 30 Champions League home games in which they have been leading at half-time, so it was a doomed second half attempt from the start, right? Di Matteo has changed the mentality, or actually brought the old one back. An AVB Chelsea wouldn’t have stood a chance against this side, who now have two huge matches at the Camp Nou in the space of three days – El Clasico, and the second leg against Chelsea.
Luckily, there was no referee problems this time around. There were plenty of divers, mostly Drogba and Busquets, but nothing crucial was missed by the Doctor in charge of officiating. Was it a night of great football? Not so much, but it was enjoyable, especially for those who love underdogs (funny calling such a rich club an underdog) who bite their way to victory, enjoying just a pinch of luck to carry them through.