Finally, they’ve done it. A season that looked to be disastrous under Andres Villas-Boas ends with Chelsea winning the double under Roberto Di Matteo.
At times, it wasn’t pretty. Organised and resolute defending where the team knew their strengths and weaknesses, or negative football – call it what you like, it’s effective. Chelsea have won the Champions League, beating the mighty Barcelona on the way as well as Napoli, Benfica and Bayern Munich.
They’ve had their graft and determination greeted by luck, but you make your own luck. Bayern had 43 shots on goal to Chelsea’s 9, but 22 of Bayern’s were blocked; even the most stout believer in defensive positioning coming before overplayed heroics would have to admit that that is fantastic defending. Gary Cahill and David Luiz were incredible, while Ashley Cole put in a Man of the Match performance, putting to bed (ahem) the claims that he’s finished as a top-flight full-back.
There were horrible Munich misses, with Mario Gomez perhaps the worst perpetrator. But Chelsea had an effect on some of those misses – pressure on players contributes to them snatching at shots, bodies flying in puts an attacker off. Stats won’t show that. They did have their luck, though – they’re lucky that Arjen Robben’s penalty in extra-time was dreadful. It really did just feel like it was their night.
Of course, the only stat that really matters is this: Bayern Munich 1 – 1 Chelsea after 90 minutes.
(picture from Markus Unger on Flickr)
The way the game was played was no real surprise; Bayern set out to retain the ball, keep possession and keep creating chances. Chelsea set out to frustrate and then counter, just as they did against Barca. They were organised and they did have periods of slight domination.
And yet, after winning the FA Cup and the Champions League, Di Matteo’s full-time job at the club – we’re told – is still not set in stone for next season.
Roman Abramovich has always wanted the Champions League, and now he’s got it. He apparently also wants the style to go with the winning; he wants to be entertained. Fine. Give Di Matteo the chance to bring in his own players, as this is still Villas-Boas’ side. Allow him to build his squad, implement the style that Roman wants and keep that winning feeling.
Cahill, Luiz, Bertrand and Mikel have all now played in a Champions League final and won. Ramires and Daniel Sturridge have played large roles in a victorious campaign. Petr Cech, Juan Mata, John Terry and Frank Lampard are all winners of the highest regard. Marko Marin is coming in in the summer, as will others no doubt. These are the foundations. They can win ugly, now give Di Matteo a season or two to make it pretty.
There were plenty of signs of good, attractive, intelligent play from Chelsea on Saturday night. There were periods where they seemed to attack at will – maybe Bayern allowed them to come out a little so that they could then counter, but it didn’t work all that well as Robben, Franck Ribery and Gomez all had poor games (partly due to Chelsea’s defending).
One move in particular showed that Chelsea can strut with the best of them: a low cross was met with a cheeky backheel from Drogba on the edge of the box; Lampard squared it intelligently for Salomon Kalou, who tested Manuel Neuer at his near post.
The late equaliser, though, after Thomas Muller had stolen in at the back post to give Munich the lead, had no perceived grace about it. A thunderous header from a thunderous man who cut a forlorn figure for most of the game but didn’t once show any sign of frustration. He chased, he harried, he lost out most of the time – but Didier Drogba knew his role. He would get his chance eventually, and good God did he take it.
And with what was possibly his last kick for Chelsea, he crowned them champions of Europe.
(picture from rayand on Flickr)
The post-match celebrations seem to irk a few which, with Twitter in its default setting of OUTRAGE, was no real surprise. EVERYTHING John Terry does is AWFUL, of course. ALL. THE. TIME. Terry decided to celebrate in his full Chelsea kit which he must have been wearing under his suit, which he was wearing in the stands due to his suspension.
(picture from Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr)
Terry wasn’t the only player to do this – the other players who were banned also did it, but they came in for significantly less criticism (i.e. none) than the former England captain did. Given that Terry isn’t a likeable human being in any way, it’s hardly surprising, yet the internet’s insistence that he shouldn’t lift the trophy was ever so slightly baffling.
The Champions League isn’t just won in the final, and Terry has played a magnificent part in the European campaign, not to mention some outstanding performances in other competitions this season. John Terry, to be blunt – and putting Liverpool to one side for the moment – has been fantastic this season.
So when his club, a club he has been with for over seventeen years and a club he has made more than 300 league appearances for, wins the Champions League, he’s allowed to be a little bit happy about it. His actions in the semi-final that brought him the red card were unjustifiable but that doesn’t mean he should be stopped from performing his duty as captain in lifting the trophy.
And the Roy Keane comparison is pretty nonsensical, as people are allowed to do things differently and that doesn’t make them wrong. Just as Terry’s actions could be interpreted as arrogant and twattish, Keane could be seen as a miserable, self-centred sod who didn’t want to celebrate with his team on one their defining nights. Cheer up, Roy – it’s not all about you.
Congratulations Chelsea – Champions League winners 2012.
Main picture from rayand on Flickr.