As expected, the Chelsea visit to Atletico Madrid produced a dull affair in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. Hardly any chances on both sides, a 0-0 draw, with the most interesting moments coming when Petr Cech and John Terry were forced out with injuries, as Jose Mourinho was probably pleased with what he saw on the pitch.
Mourinho spoke earlier this season about West Ham and 19th century football. There was more than a hint of cynicism in the way his team played to achieve their goalless draw, which included hardly an attempt to attack, a very defensive lineup that included very little room or hope for creativity and a bunch of players spending more time trying to waste minutes and feign injuries than actually looking for goals.
Atletico Madrid finally found some space on the wings and behind the Chelsea defense once John Terry had to leave after bumping legs with David Luiz. It ruined Chelsea’s shape quite a bit and made it possible for wingers to find angles and space to cross. It didn’t result in incredible chances – headers from Arda Turan and Diego Costa didn’t really make Mark Schwarzer work too hard in a fine performance from the substitute goalkeeper.
But criticism of style doesn’t really matter. Atletico, just like Chelsea, are a pragmatic team. At Stamford Bridge, we’re probably going to see the same kind of football from the Colchoneros. Maybe not this blunt in its defensiveness, but similar in intentions, unless Chelsea score early. Jose Mourinho is here to get results, not please the neutrals or those looking for flash. He put Fernando Torres in an impossible position, without any help, but every player gave him the defensive discipline and effort he was looking for.
Atletico Madrid struggle when they are the team that is forced to have the initiative. They are built for counter attacks and quick play. Facing 10 men behind the ball things looked a lot more complicated for them, and found it very difficult to dominate through set pieces or with long range shots without anyone getting in the way. We’re not going to see better football at Stamford Bridge. Maybe slightly, but this was to be expected. No use in being surprised and offended now.