Riddle me this: What's the reaction to an English team, missing its best player, going to Spain to play against the La Liga leaders -- a team that utterly blitzed Barcelona in the quarters, even if they only scored once -- in a Champions League semifinal and coming away with a 0-0 draw? The answer is that everyone thinks we were terrible.
Yes, it was a boring game. No, we didn't score, or even come particularly close to scoring. And yes, we're not exactly set up perfectly for the return leg. But if you watched this game expecting entertainment rather than because you were emotionally invested in either team, you're an idiot. Chelsea were always going to try to coax Atletico Madrid into breaking down a solid defence because that's what Atletico Madrid are bad at. Atleti, for their part, would have done exactly the same in our shoes.
Anyway, let me present a list of teams Chelsea have beaten in the knockout rounds of European competition in the past three years:
- Bayern Munich
- Sparta Prague
- Steaua Bucharest
- Rubin Kazan
- FC Basel
- Paris Saint-Germain
And here is a list of teams the rest of England has managed to better in that time:
- Porto (Manchester City)
- Ajax (Manchester United)
- Metalist Kharkiv (Newcastle)
- Anzhi Makhachkala (Newcastle)
- Lyon (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Inter Milan (Tottenham Hotspur)
- Olympiacos (Manchester United)
- Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Tottenham Hotspur)
So frankly the rest of England can shut up.
If the above looks suspiciously like padding to fill out a match report in which I don't have much to say, you're right. Hopefully it's interesting padding. As far as the match goes, it was predictably dull. Downright boring, in fact, and if not for two annoying injury interjections, we might reasonably have said nothing happened at all.
The most important is Petr Cech's. The goalkeeper went down under pressure from an Atleti corner, got tangled up with Raul Garcia and unfortunately will now miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder. Mark Schwarzer came in for the stricken Czech and did well enough, although the real stars of the show were the defenders, who were by and large magnificent.
It's not coincidence that Atletico failed to seriously threaten as long as John Terry was on the pitch. Frustrated when they tried to go through the middle -- John Obi Mikel and David Luiz formed an admirable wall in front of the centrebacks -- they were forced to go wide and cross, which was bread and butter for Gary Cahill and the skipper. Terry was forced out in the late stages with an injured foot, and the chances started flowing, but until then it didn't look as though the hosts would have a sniff of goal.
We didn't either. A Frank Lampard half-volley was caught by Thibaut Courtois; Fernando Torres' angled drive met a similar fate. And aside from some promising-looking set-pieces that ultimately came to nothing, our attacking threat was about as present as a herd of gold-pooping unicorns. It was ugly. There were suspensions too -- Lampard for a bad foul, Mikel for dissent after a bit of a melee, and Gabi for being a bit of a pillock. All will miss the return leg, which puts us in a bit of a pickle so far as the midfield goes.
So, here's where we stand. Both teams are ok with the result, although I'd imagine Jose Mourinho is slightly happier than Diego Simeone. Both teams are going to have issues with suspensions. We've picked up some nasty injuries. And so the tie is in the balance.
Yeah, it would have been nice to have gotten an away goal, but if we had the choice of being 3-1 down like we finished in Paris versus a nice, sensible 0-0 draw... it's the draw every day. Now we just have to wait for next Wednesday to continue boring the rest of the world to death.
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