Tuesday, May 12, 2009

FC Barcelona 1-1 Chelsea FC (FC Barcelona advance on away goals)

The second semi-final saw more of what we've seen in Chelsea-Barcelona ties in the last few years. There were a number of controversial calls and both teams had more than one refereeing call to be upset about over the two legs. Chelsea, to their credit, defended a lot better at home than they did at the Camp Nou. Barcelona, not to be cowed by their opponent's physical advantage, kept looking for the opening that would secure them that precious away goal Chelsea had passed by in the first leg. Their job was made tougher by an Essien thunderbolt that brought back memories of last year's semi-final. Meanwhile, the Norwegian referee Tom Henning Øvrebø was having a howler and had denied Chelsea two legitimate penalties and wrongly sent off Eric Abidal in the 65th minute. To top it off, he denied them a third, and the most obvious penalty, when Anelka's poke saw the ball hit Pique's extended arm.

You knew Chelsea would be content to sit on the lead and only attack when they absolutely needed to. With Messi being muscled out of the game and Eto'o forgetting the meaning of a soft first touch it all seemed to go pear-shaped for the team that many consider the greatest ever to play for Barcelona. And then it came! Essien failed to make an easy clearance and the ball fell to Lionel Messi. This was his moment, this was his chance to respond to Ronaldo's challenge. Instead, he shielded the ball from his markers and did the right thing by finding the open Iniesta. Iniesta, who has lived in the shadow of Xavi all season, fired what was his team's only shot on goal all game. Unfortunately for Chelsea, it went in and Barcelona were ahead on away goals. Chelsea had one last chance and Ballack fired a shot that hit Eto'o under his arm, although it should be noted that the Cameroonian had no business having his arm up. The final whistle blew shortly after and the referee was mobbed by Chelsea players. Didier Drogba came off the bench in his flip-flops and seemed to think he was on Jerry Springer, while Lampard and Terry were measured in their criticism of the Norwegian.

It wasn't the prettiest of encounters but it did have two wonderful goals. Chelsea paid for their reluctance to attack and Barcelona were rewarded for sticking to their guns inspite of being a man down. Sadly, the refereeing left a bad taste in the mouth.

And we're back

It's been a while since a tree fell in the proverbial forest. The last time I posted was right before I embarked on the most eventful 16 months of my life. So here I am, back to blogging about sports.

Let's start off with some football, shall we?

Last week saw two of the best clubs in Europe make the final of the continent's premier club competition. Here's how it went down in the semis.

Manchester United 4-1 Arsenal FC

Manchester United under the experience and leadership of Sir Alex dismantled Arsenal with one of the most professional displays in European football of late. Everyone knew United had dominated Arsenal in the first leg and only the most passionate of Arsenal fans expected it to be different at the Emirates. Cristiano Ronaldo decided to throw the challenge to Little Leo Messi by scoring two goals and creating another. However, United fans were left bemoaning the sending off of Darren Fletcher for a foul that wasn't.