Barcelona v Chelsea: Guus Hiddink's game of bluff pays off for Chelsea

29 April 2009 07:00
But then maybe Guus Hiddink had been kidding us along. He certainly had a contented smile at the end.

"It's not easy to play when the opponents don't play football," said a frustrated Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, afterwards as he raged against the spoiling tactics and "aggressive manner" of Michael Ballack, in particular, and the performance of his fellow German, referee Wolfgang Stark. "It's difficult when one team plays creatively and tries to attack and be clean and the other doesn't," Guardiola said. Chelsea, he felt, didn't do that.

 Related ArticlesTerry the hero as Barcelona are kept outHiddink: Cech saved game for usBarcelona v Chelsea: Man markingSpanish artists confounded by Chelsea bullsBarcelona coach Pep Guardiola puts dent into Chelsea tacticsBarcelona v Chelsea: Champions League Game ZoneThe suspicion had been that Hiddink's pre-match message was more a rallying cry to his players of what they could do than what he expected from them. The interim manager had, in the same tub-thumping statements also, of course, conceded that Chelsea were facing the best team in the world. And there was no probably attached to that by way of qualification.

Still Chelsea had power and resolve and Didier Drogba who can mix it – and also mix it up if he has to. Aged 30, the striker has wiles to go with his guile as this game became, as suspected, a clash of football cultures – Premier League energy, spirit, desire (with a dose of Dutch pragmatism) against the mesmerising fluidity of a Barcelona side which lived up to the principles that underpin the club and which have also been lauded by Hiddink. Even if they didn't gain the goals.

"They had a lot of possession but we stayed very tight," Chelsea captain John Terry said.

"We watched videos before the game; they like to play little balls through and we knew that and stopped them doing it. It's a fantastic result and we go back to the Bridge ready to go again. We'll have home advantage so hopefully we can make the most of that."

Drogba had two good chances. "I thought Didier was unlucky," Terry said. "We didn't create too many chances but we haven't conceded." The captain also refused to accept Barca's claims that they should have had a penalty when Jose Bosingwa appeared to pull down Thierry Henry.

Petr Cech was equally delighted. "They have a big attacking threat and we wanted to eliminate it," he said. "We defended very well but at times we could have used the ball better. We had some opportunities, but unfortunately we did not take them. To keep a clean sheet at Barcelona is always a good result.

"We need another clean sheet at Stamford Bridge or we need to score more goals than them. Hopefully we can repeat the same defensive performance of today – plus at home we always score goals."

Chelsea's power play had been enough to see off Liverpool in the previous round and also the stylists of Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final but as Hiddink pretty much suspected, and hence his rallying cry, this was a whole new ball game. And one his team often played as distracted spectators.

Nonetheless, Hiddink's game plan – and with it his probable game of bluff – worked. Not that matters will be any easier for them in the second leg.


Source: Telegraph