Monday, 21 May 2012

Bayern v Chelsea Post Match Review: The Good, the Bad and the Chelsea

      By Carlos Zimmermann 
The Champions League final was meant to be a show piece, a offering of the best that football could give, however the consensus is that Chelsea are the most uninspiring champions since the Marseilles "victory" in the 1st champions league way back in '93. The revolutionary football fans among us live and breathe for free-flowing creative football.  
For the tacticians in us who enjoy and see the game as a chess match amongst masters we could see in Di Matteo, we certainly didn't have a Bobby Fisher on show. To call it Catenaccio (“Locked Door”) would have been as insulting to Italians as insulting their mum's cooking: they would have passionately explained that the proof is in the pudding, and Chelsea's was stale.

This was not a march to victory but more of a stumble and a slip, luckily falling head first into the elite pool that is bathed in by the winners of this most prestigious prize in football. Chelsea on route to the final had a very bumpy ride, turbulence caused by the lack of aerodynamics in the system and players rocking the ship. They considered a incredible amount of shots, 137 in games from the 1st leg against Benifeca with them having 49 in reply with only 14 on target. On route to the final, Chelsea didn't win one away game, drawing three and losing three. Catenaccio is a very negative tactic but it did lock the door, where Chelsea seemed to be guarding the door while it swung ajar. 
In the Barcelona games, Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez all went clear through on goal a couple of times each and, as is uncharacteristic of them, they missed while Chelsea were forced along the white water waves of luck, and with one chance in either game superbly put away by Drogba and Ramires -not including Torres' goal in the Barcelona game,where he ran 60 yards without a challenge- saw them recklessly drift to safety. It was much the same in the Final.

Muller is one of those players you see and say to yourself “Why are you so good?” Nothing seems to really shine out compared to some of the other top players but it is his positional play and reading of the game that makes him so deadly. Muller was fantastic in this game and would have been a fitting winner of the match he consistently moved around the final third, untracked. He found himself mostly to the right flank with acres of space, with the dynamic Robben cutting in to free that area. Di Matteo's thinking was to go with Bertrand, to help Cole and Lampard on that left side against Lahm, Robben and Muller. This didn't work in practise as the latter three were excellent together. Robben was too greedy most of the time, choosing to try and squeeze his shots past the awesome Cech and the 7 player wall Chelsea had narrowly camped in the box. We kept seeing the "Robery" combination seamlessly applied to either flank when necessary which caused Chelsea so many problems. Playing Tymoshchuk in defence with the excellent Bastian Schweinsteiger/ Kross combo working the double pivot gave them all the possession, leaving Juan Mata as a spectator picking up the wrong man at the wrong time but in typical Mata style when on the ball he rarely gave it away   . Mario Gomez will not need a flight to Poland as he will be kicking himself all the way to the Euro's after that game. A striker in such red hot form this year should have put one of those chances away.

This was not a classic Drogba "final" performance. He is an honest man who is a big giver to those less well-off (building a hospital in his homeland is just one of the many things he has done) and this showed with his work rate in his own half. Drogba tried to stay on the shoulder of Tymoshchuk and Lahm, thinking that the lack of height and Tymoshchuk  playing out of position would cause Bayern  problems. Drogba found himself too deep in the centre of the park and that's where Tymoshchuk plays  his game. When the big moment came, it was a great image to see Drogba running across the box and rising like a salmon, powerfully heading in Chelsea's only corner to level the game up. Daniel Van Buyten was brought on late by Jupp Heynckes for such situations but was nowhere to be seen when his time came. Saying that, when Drogba is in the mood and wants to score, he can be impossible to defend. Kalou worked hard but didn't get into the game. Mikel's performance might have gone under the radar because Bayern had so many shots but he worked to the best of his abilities and performed well, teaming up with the defensive line. Lampard showed just how much he has matured with his very disciplined display in matches against Barcelona and in the final itself, making some very important tackles and interceptions whilst making the right sort of passes to keep the ball while they were under such intense pressure. Ashley Cole had a good game but it was far from great.Cole found himself  too concerned with closing up the gap between him and his centre-back, leaving Muller in the second half finding loads of space in the area around the back post, which led him to scoring the first goal of the game. However, Ashley Cole's eye for danger contributed to him making three invaluable blocks. Cahill and Luiz were only given an inch by Di Matteo, (that's how far they seemed from their own goal line) but went the whole nine yards with seven blocks between them. We have to give a big hand to the man who possesses these in Peter Cech, going the right way on all five penalties in the shoot-out as well as saving the high pressure penalty that Drogba gave away near the end of the game.

In the end, it is Chelsea's name that has been inscribed into the trophy and the history books. In years to come, that is all that people will remember. Looking at Roman Abramovich this does not look like a man who has just reached the promised land. When he bought the club he pictured them dominating Europe not just with trophies, but with style too. He looked embarrassed, like a runner winning a 100 metre race with his opponents falling on their faces before the finish line. It makes you wonder, now that he has tasted the bitter-sweet victory, how inclined he will be to open that big wallet of his. Bayern will feel hard done by, this is the third final that this Bayern team has lost in. As they walk away, knowing this team is good enough to reach the promised land next year, Chelsea will have a lot of work to do but for now they can bask in the glory of being champions of Europe.

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