Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Image

Tom Jenkins/Guardian

It took them long enough, but Chelsea have finally won the Champions League, after a nail-biting penalty shootout against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. It was a culmination of the efforts of the likes of Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard and John Terry and the money of Roman Abramovich to see them finally lift the trophy that’s always been tantalisingly out of reach. It’s been an impressive turnaround for a club that started the season so poorly and were one game away from getting knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages.

Normally such a turnaround would be the toast of the town, with neutrals everywhere rallying behind the plucky underdog. And yet, Chelsea still manages to be a club that fosters hostility and negativity towards it, like some petulant children clutching onto its coattails. If you’d been watching ITV’s coverage last night, you’d think that the only people opposed to the idea of Chelsea winning were Spurs fans, who had their Champions League place hanging in the balance. This was far from the truth and a concept that the pundits and executives at ITV in particular have difficulty wrapping their brains around. A significant number of people don’t want Chelsea to win, or any English club to do well when it’s not their own. You spend a season rooting against such clubs, why would you stop for European competition? The unrestrained cheering in the commentary box when Drogba put the decisive penalty away was incredibly grating.

Be that as it may, the performance of Chelsea wasn’t up to their usual standard like it was against Barcelona. But then it didn’t really have to be. Bayern were very much off the boil, with one or two exceptions. Gomez had a torrid time in front of goal. His first touch was nearly always heavy and his shooting was more of the clay pigeon variety. Robben also had a shocker, surprising considering he was playing against another former club. His runs very rarely came to much, his corners were poor and he missed a penalty in extra time. That being said, I thought Schweinsteiger and Lahm both had good games. Joachim Low will have his work cut out building their spirits back up after such a heartbreaking defeat.

As for Chelsea, though I don’t think they were as composed as they were against Barcelona, some of their players played out of their skins. Most notably Ashley Cole absolutely bossed that game and was easily man of the match. Over the past few months I’d been thinking that Leighton Baines had laid his claim to the England left-back spot, but Cole has re-affirmed himself as one of the best left backs in the world and a big game player. Gary Cahill was also a rock at the back and a much needed cool head next to the occasionally rash David Luiz. Drogba also did well, despite his lack of service, challenging Neuer, holding up play and scoring an absolute bullet of a header. That he conceded a penalty is the only blemish on what was a massive night for the Ivorian. I really do think that Chelsea would be mad to let him leave the club considering how often he turns up in big games. Such an athlete easily has a couple of years at the top left in him, the only question is will he be willing to sit out some games as younger, fresher faces come in?

You’d think now that Roberto Di Matteo would have done enough to get the Chelsea job full time by now. Not only has he delivered the one trophy that Roman Abramovich has craved more than any other, he also has the ability to get the most out of this aging group of players. Whether he has the ability to bring much needed re-structuring to the club is unsure, but Di Matteo has earned the chance to try.

The one aspect that has left a distinctly bitter taste is the mouths of football fans is the presence of John Terry lifting the trophy, in full kit, despite being suspended from the game. Unlike the other suspended players present, who were there through accumulated yellow cards (a silly rule that hopefully is abolished), Terry was suspended due to his own rash stupidity. In a career filled with incidences that have made him one of the most hated men in the game, it’s this display of shallow-minded, self-centred egotism that serves as a perfect example of why he is so loathed.

However, it does not do to dwell and one must congratulate Chelsea on their victory, no matter how much of a bitter taste it may leave in the mouth. I dread to think of the hangover you get after a night of premium Russian vodka…