Thursday, May 07, 2009

Chelsea 1:1 Barcelona--Ballack and Drogba lose their heads

While a lot of this clip is showing the Barcelona squad celebrating, and a classy Frank Lampard exchanging jerseys with Andres Iniesta, the back end of the clip shows Chelsea's Didier Drogba acting like a spoiled child whining about being told he can't go to Disneyland.

It is hard for me to say that Chelsea is right or wrong. It is likewise hard for me to say that Barcelona deserved to go through. It is hard for me to say that the officiating was good, because it clearly is not. But here is what I do think about Drogba.

He is a diver. And part of the reason that Chelsea will be watching the Champions' League final rather than playing in it is because Drogba and his diving partner Nicholas Anelka didn't do their job and put the ball in the back of the net. They had chances to put Barcelona away and they didn't do it.

Now about that phantom hand ball on the last minute Ballack shot. Having seen the replay a couple of different times, I thought it was a handball from the angle of the video. But here is the thing, having seen that the referee was in the correct position, I have tried to imagine the play from his point of view, because his viewpoint is different than the viewpoint of the replays. I think from his viewpoint, you could say that the shot went off of the back rather than the arm. But I also think the referee had doubts, and I don't know how many times I have been told as a referee, if you have doubts about whether to give a penalty, don't give the penalty.

It was a game changing call and in the end I think the referee got it right. Ballack can scream all he wants. Drogba can rant all he wants about it being an f****** disgrace, but the fact of the matter is, I think the referee got that one right.

But that doesn't excuse the refereeing from the rest of the match. Anelka took a Greg Louganis which resulted in Eric Abidal's red card (which by the way shouldn't have been a red card--yellow perhaps but not red, it is not a denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity because Anelka clearly did not have possession or control of the ball, Victor Valdes was coming out and probably would have smoothered the ball). I am not saying that the lack of a penalty call was an "evening of the balance sheet" but clearly the refereeing was not as good a quality as it could have been.

Chelsea put on a good display of defensive work. Michael Essien (even apart from his goal) showed why he is one of the best midfielders in the world). John Terry and Alex anchored a solid back line for Chelsea. But one poor clearance, a lovely pass from Messi to Iniesta and wonderful, first time shot puts Barcelona through to the final.

Did Barcelona earn their berth in the final? No, I don't think they did. Chelsea lost this game. They blew their chances and lost their nerve in the last minutes. Barca didn't earn it, but neither did Chelsea.

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