Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Re-Tread: Chelsea 1 - Barcelona 0

photo by striaticvia PhotoRee

Correspondent Ed originally tacked this on as a comment to his piece on Chelsea vs. Barcelona earlier this week, but given the twin facts that: (a) the comments below are fairly well hidden; and (ii) we needed another piece for this week, I am re-utilizing Ed's diatribe to fill up the space below:

As an update to [my article from Wednesday], I should note that Chelsea was able to pull out a win despite being completely and totally dominated by Barcelona. I don't merely mean possession, I also mean chances at scoring. Barca hit the bar and the post, and there was a goal line save by Ashley Cole, who I thought played his best game of the year last night. I'm not even sure I heard the name Dani Alves last evening, as the attacking fullback added pretty much nothing to the game. In addition, Fabregas pretty much whiffed on another chance in front of the goal. Yes, Chelsea ultimately stopped Barca and Messi from scoring, but we have to admit that a lot of that was luck.

o Frank Lampard was also notable last evening. As in the England game against Spain, he was one of the few players that is able to handle the immediate rush of players that Barca puts on the ball after they lose it. His steal from Messi and cross field pass to Ramirez were also stunning.

o Speaking of the pass and the break and the goal, one suspects that Di Matteo practiced this break as on several occasions upon a change of possession the indefatigable Ramirez sprinted forward for a long ball. Plus, Lampard didn’t hesitate for a second on his cross field ball, and if he had he would have lost it to the charging Barca defense.

o Barca had the ball 78% of the time last evening. That’s stunning and once again should be embarrassing for the English powerhouse. It once again calls into question the system of Chelsea (and Real and Bayern). The announcers wrongfully noted that others may try the system but it simply is impossible without the Barca talent level. Clearly they haven’t watched Swansea this year.

o Did anyone notice the staggering size differential between Drogba and Messi as they walked out of the tunnel? Is there any better illustration of the two different systems in soccer than these two guys?

o Drogba’s antics were probably somewhat shameful, but I suspect this too was part of Di Matteo’s plan. When you never have the ball you need rest. You can actually see the Barca players step it down a gear and rest once they regain possession. Drogba was clearly working to give Chelsea’s team lots of short breaks to break Barca’s rhythm and allow time to physically recover.

o Barca insists on playing it out of the back, and they are very vulnerable when they do so. Their weakest ball handlers are Puyol and Mascherano, and their goalkeeper Victor Valdes. They often – as they did last night – get caught in possession in dangerous areas. This comes with the system. They’ve been lucky that teams haven’t capitalized on this more. Part is because opponents like Chelsea put initial pressure on the ball in Barca’s end but usually back off pretty quickly.

o I’m always surprised how often Barca beats people on the one-two pass. There was one moment when Messi passed it to Alexis Sanchez (I think) and three Chelsea players including the player marking Messi (Lampard I think) turned and ran to Sanchez who quickly put it back to a wide open Messi. Really? Follow the runner! Especially when it’s Messi!

o Victor Valdez had one save to make. It wouldn’t have been easy but it was also pretty doable, but he missed it. Petr Cech, however, having endured a pretty painful season in the BPL, was fantastic. Worthy of the Man of the Match for Chelsea.

-- Corresp. Ed for farlieonfootie on April 21.

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