Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich celebrates with the Champions League trophy
By Tunde Sulaiman
For the second week in a row, I am being forced to congratulate a team, which I normally would not have. Last weekend it was Manchester City for their stunning English Premier League triumph.
This weekend I have to congratulate Chelsea for their epoch-making UEFA Champions League win last Saturday.
However, that is it for congratulations, my main gist is to attempt to answer a number of cynics who questioned the way and manner the Blues went about conquering Europe – especially in the last two games of the Champions League (semi and final)
Although football purists will be quick to point our that the stats from the match played at the Allianz Arena, Munich indicate that the Blues are not worthy winners in view of the fact that their ‘victims’ Bayern Munich had 55% of the play, had 35 shots (of which eight were on target) and 20 corners.
On the other hand the winners could only conjure up nine shots (of which only three were on target) and had a solitary corner kick for the whole of 120 minutes – a clear indication of which team came to play football!
But the simple and undeniable fact that we all know at the end of the day the stat that counts most is – goals!
And in the shootout (which again purists may raise eyebrows), Chelsea players held their nerves better to tuck away four of their five to Bayern’s three, which was enough to give them the bragging rights as the first London-based team to get their hands on the coveted trophy.
True, everybody loves beautiful football but at the end of the day it does not guarantee victory.
I still remember how in 1982 I lost my appetite as soon as Brazil crashed out of the World Cup, despite playing the most entertaining football of the campaign.
Thirty years later I still vividly remember some of the stars that made the Samba Boys tick at Espana’82, Eder, who scored a stunning winning goal against Russia (then it was still the USSR), Zico, Socrates, their late inspirational skipper who got Brazil’s World Cup back on track after scoring the equaliser in the opening game against Russia, and Junior amongst others.
However, at the end of the day while their ‘jongo bonito’ captivated audiences the world over, their failure to translate their ‘beautiful football’ into goals was to cost them dearly in the second round when a certain Paolo Rossi scored a hattrick for Italy while the ‘favourites’ could only muster two through Zico (who had his shirt torn by Azzurri hard man, Claudio Gentile) and Socrates (whose equaliser was a beauty to watch).
Fast tracking to the present day, purists still can’t believe how Barcelona failed to get past Chelsea despite overwhelming domination in both legs.
At Stamford Bridge the former champions had 72% of the possession, had 19 shots (of which six were on target) and eight corners, while the home team had only four shots and only one corner kick. Incidentally of the four shots only one was on target – and it turned out to be the only goal of the match!
In the return leg, it was again one way traffic with Barcelona raising its shots tally to 23 (of which a staggering 14 were on target) while they had 10 corners.
On the other hand Chelsea had only one corner and seven shots at goal. However, of the seven three were on target with two of them being goals!
In the final in Munich the story was the same, with Bayern huffing and puffing but not able to blow the Blues house down.
But then when one looks at it dispassionately (perhaps imbibing the thinking of the famous 15th century Italian philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli’s who said: ‘the end justifies the means’) what did Barcelona and Bayern’s possessions achieve – absolutely nothing!
Every single Bayern player and fan and every one backing Barcelona would love to be in the shoes of Chelsea fans and players.
The simple truth is that Chelsea coach, Roberto Di Matteo did what any smart coach would do – play to his teams strengthens.
Long suffering Arsenal fans will give up almost anything to swap places with Blues’ fans and be able to beat their chests as being European champions.
A couple of seasons ago, Arsenal (for long touted as the ‘Barcelona’ of the Premier League because of their beautiful football) tried to prove that they were the ‘real deal’ when they came up against the real Barcelona and we all know what happened!
In 2008 Manchester United squeezed past Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League by playing ‘negative’ football for which Alex Ferguson was roundly condemned.
The following season he tried to play the ‘Barcelona’ way against the Spaniards in Rome and we all know what happened!
So what am I trying to say, while football is meant to be admired at the end of the day, it is results more than anything that counts – ask Arsenal fans (seven years and counting)? Which means that fans may see teams scaling back on ‘beautiful’ football in an effort to win trophies, which is actually the name of the game anyway!
And so I must say congratulations to Chelsea for finally ending long wait to finally lay their hands on the famous trophy – no matter how they did it.