Football for the couch potatoes


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Drogba Delight

The Champions League brings about some of the biggest clashes in European football and yesterday night was another such occasion as Chelsea and Barcelona sqaured off yet again in a fascinating clash of champions.

Much of the pre-match talk was of the supposed notion that this latest clash was less significant than past editions but once the Belgian referee got proceedings underway it was clear that both sides were determined to emerge the victors with Chelsea snapping away tigerishly at the Spanish side and Barcelona looking to impose their flair and invention on the match.

Chelsea started off slightly better with Essien looking powerful in the midfield and their fullbacks Boulharouz and Cole keeping the menacing Messi and Ronaldinho in check.

The first real chance came to Drogba who profited from another surging run from Essien who had capitalised on Deco's reluctance to track back. Dorgba's touch took him clear of Marquez but Barca keeper Victor Valdes kept him out. The rebound bobbled to Shevchenko who looked set to end his goal drought only to be denied by the Mexican Marquez who recovered to make a brilliant saving tackle.

In fact the game seemed to hinge on the Barcelona midfield's reluctance to track back with the likes of Lampard and Essien finding space with their runs from midfield. However when things broke down Barca would have the numbers and looked to capitalise on the counter attack.

In what was turning out to be a contest between the drive and power of Chelsea and the flamboyant ball retention of Barcelona it was Barcelona who gradually came into the game more with Messi forcing a terrific save from debutant Hilario.

In fact, they nearly scored one of the great European goals when intricate flicks and pin point passing led to Xavi forcing another save from Hilario at his near post which seemed to signal a spell of Barca dominace where Messi and Cole went head to head in what was to be a terrific matchup.

The 2nd half was barely a minute old when Drogba lit up the game with a goal worthy of winning any game. Having miscontrolled Ashley Cole's cross, his little flick took Marquez and Puyol out before smashing the ball past Valdes from the edge of the box. It was a terrific strike almost a mirror image of his winner against Liverpool earlier in the season.

The goal brought about a reaction from Rijkaard who brought on Andres Iniesta and reverted to three at the back. The pace of the game increased as Barca committed more men forward with the tricky winger Ludovic Giuly sent on in search of a equaliser.

However with the Barca defence more and more exposed it was Chelsea who looked most likely to score another with Shevchenko spurning a glorious chance to make it 2-0. It was a miss symbolic of his recent fortunes and one which he would surely scored if in better form.

Barca's ability though was always latent but there just didn't seem a frontman to profit from the probing play of Messi and Deco and they were limited to long range shots which Hilario was always comfortable with. Samuel Eto'o was definitely a big miss and if Barca are to defend their European crown, Eto'o would definitely play a big part in it.

Despite having plenty of possesion in the 2nd half Barcelona seldom looked like finding an equaliser and with Ronaldinho having another disappointing night, the much vaunted Barcelona side were made to look ordinary in the 2nd half as the likes of Essien and Lampard dominated with their power and dynamism.

So a typical 1-0 win to Chelsea and the 2 teams meet again in a fortnight and Barcelona can ill afford another poor performance such as theirs in the 2nd half.

Man of the Match - Didier Drogba
It was either Drogba or Essien but Drogba's goal earned him the honour

Hilario Handles -
The 3rd choice goalie did himself proud and will be delighted with the clean sheet

Barca Bummer -
Frank Rijkaard might be a little worried following this poor showing from his side. Despite short spells of brilliance, the likes Ronaldinho and Puyol were poor and the European champions need to respond this weekend against Real Madrid. With Werder Bremen winning on the night, another defeat to Chelsea in 2 weeks' time might see the unlikely prospect of the defending champions out in the group stages.

Hilario 7
Boulharouz 8 - Few right backs can claim to have kept Ronaldinho in his pocket but the Cannibal was excellent
Carvalho 8
Terry 7
Cole 7
Makelele 6
Essien 8
Lampard 7
Ballack 6
Shevchenko 6 - Worked hard but he desperately needs a goal to kickstart his season (Robben 6)
Drogba 8 (Kalou)

Valdes 6
Zambrotta 7
Marquez 8 - Excelled at the back but team mates let him down
Puyol 5 (Belleti 6)
van Bronckhorst 6 (Iniesta 6)
Edmilson 6
Xavi 6
Deco 7
Ronaldinho 6 - Another disappointing performance from the supposed best in the world
Messi 6
Gudjohnsen 5 (Giuly 7)


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