Chelsea’s Champions League dreams ended with a whimper as Athletico Madrid deservedly booked their spot in Lisbon on May 24th.
The Blues , even though going a goal ahead in tonight’s tie, never really showed up for this semi-final. Recent performances have seen the team outperform under Mourinho’s direction. This was not one of those nights.
We were outplayed in all areas of the pitch, particularly in midfield. A superb Madrid performance was amplified by sub-par displays by the usually reliable combination of Ramires and Luis. Jose’s tactical gamble of playing Azpilicueta, for the first time, as an attacking midfield option backfired as the home side felt a little toothless in the final third. Eden Hazard looked short of match practise and Willian’s first touch was not up to his normal standard.
At this point it must be said that getting to the semi-Final in this a transition year was no mean feat – our squad and manager should be congratulated.
Being honest, it was a night to forget. The game had an eerie feel to it from the start as Madrid seemed to be playing within themselves and in total control. I’m also sure that Mourinho’s past comments about Chelsea’s lack of firepower up front will get a re-airing after tonight’s display.
Fernando Torres was shown a huge vote of confidence by Jose as he was chosen to lead the line against his former team. He was obviously under strict instruction to run at Athletico. Unfortunately his success rate of getting past the first line of defense was somewhere in the high single digits. He did score though!…
In the end, the game could also be summed up by the tale of two goalkeepers. For Chelsea’s part the loss of Petr Cech was probably underestimated. Not that Schwarzer had a bad game, it’s just that our Czech keeper commands his area and also sets the rear guard in motion. But truthfully, when did Chelsea last concede 3 goals at home?
In comparison, Courtois, our on-loan keeper had played almost the perfect game. His 6’7″ frame was quickly down to left and right to make a number of critical saves. The only time he was beaten was when Torres’s shot for the first goal took an unfortunate deflection which wrongfooted the Belgian.
Althletico looked dangerous every time they worked their way into the final third. We were lucky not be one down in the first 10 minutes, when we were saved by bar and post after Schwarzer was well beaten by a volleyed cross that turned into a shot.
We could certainly see why Madrid are atop the Seria A table, keeping Real and Barca at bay. The Final in Lisbon will be great match up of 2 sides with no obvious weaknesses.
The game certainly came to life in the 35th minute when Torres scored after some great trickery out wide from Willian. He turned two Madrid defenders inside out before Azpilicueta found Torres in the box, the Spaniards powerful first time shot took a deflection and flew past Courtois.
The Stamford Bridge faithful were silenced within 10 minutes. Athletico scored at the worst possible time for the Blues, with almost the last kick of the first half. Juanfran sneaked in at the far post after Ashley Cole’s beard had covered his eyes. The Madrid defender crossed the ball into the six yard box and Adrian found himself all alone, smashing the ball into the left corner. Normal service resumed after the break with Madrid’s dominance restored.
This forced Jose into an early change replacing Ashley Cole with Samuel Eto’o ten minutes into the second half. Within a couple of minutes our Cameroonian had given away a stone-walled penalty by fouling Diego Costa in the box. Costa then stepped up to convert his opportunity, after collecting a yellow card for unsporting behaviour in delaying the penalty.
Chelsea’s Final dreams were slipping away. Demba Ba was introduced for Torres to try to shake things up, but there was to be no Mourinho magic on this occasion. If anything Athletico seemed to get a stronger grip. This was to be Diego Simeone’s night.
The icing on the cake was Madrid’s 3rd goal on 70 minutes, when Turan got the rub of the green from a saved effort from Schwarzer, and scored from a couple of yards out.
Luckily the Chelsea fans that left early didn’t know what “Fire Drill” is in Spanish or they may have taken umbrage with them down the Fulham Road as the Madrid fans taunted them.
Anyway, it was a great run and we don’t have long to wait for a mouth-watering Final. I don’t like being a neutral at big games but happy to make an exception for this one.