Friday, 25 May 2012

Withering Heights

Fine lines cause crow's feet around the eye of the beholder.

To my tiring eyes, Chelsea were about three minutes away.

Then again, one poor spot kick away.

And then again just a lottery penalty kick away.

Just those, tiny, tiny incidents away from losing the champions league final with the most withering and weak of performances I have witnessed in a Champions League final.

The kind of display that would have made their supporters scratch their heads and hang them in despair thinking, WHY?

It us understood and right to be applauded if you can beat the finest team Europe has seen for many years over two games,home and away, as they did with Barcelona. In those circumstances, use any means at your disposal, negative or otherwise. Of course, there can be as much to admire in defensive work as attacking.

But WHY get all this way to a one off final and then spend the whole match solely ensuring that the other side didn't score. And not even (perhaps Ashley Cole aside) doing very well at it -  surviving, as they did, with a chance in the lottery of penalties, only because their opponents had forgotten something important when bossing a game. Namely, how to propel the spherical object they have been passing around over the correct part of the white line and between the uprights.

With their shooting boots on, Bayern would have been well out of sight. Even without them (how many has Gomez scored this season? and how?) Bayern finally broke through and -but for an admittedly superb equaliser by Drogba once chelsea realised they ought to make a fist of it - Chelsea would have signed off from one of the biggest games that most of those players will ever be involved in, or wore replica kit and shinpads to, with a pathetic pffft.

This was Chelsea, let us not forget. Not Worksop Town. A team with the likes of Drogba, Torres, Lampard and Mata at its diposal. This was also a Bayern Munich shorn of its first choice central defenders. And although they got to the final and obviously a decent team -Barcelona at their pomp, they are not. (I realise that neither are Chelsea - but they surely had more to offer than that.)

Yet we awoke to stories of brave Chelsea heroes and pleas for interim manager Di Matteo to be given the job long term. "What more does he have to do?" are the cries of the permanently stressed out London press.

Or even - "this is how England should play in Euro 2012 and we can win it!"

It has brought to mind a certain derby match "title decider" that Manchester United gifted to Manchester city. United would not play for a draw - "never done that in my life" said Sir Alex. But the sight of his side ceding territory and possession and dropping deeper and deeper to defend the status quo was sadly not indicative of his statement.

Those fine lines appear again, though. But for a lapse of concentration on a corner, United would be champions now - and it would be down to a performance not unlike Chelsea's last weekend, and most unlike a United performance. A disappointing and withering attempt at getting a draw - but was that more understandable because only a draw was needed?

Fair play to Chelsea, though. Their name is on the big old trophy and despite being a million miles away from the best in England this season, they are the Champions of Europe.
We probably could have dispensed with the 120 minutes of football match, though, and gone straight to a penalty shootout.

That is why Mr Abramovich does not seem to be rushing to give the job to Roberto. He will feel that his money should be buying something a little more certain. Not a Euromillions ticket.


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