Five ways Chelsea blunted Barcelona

29 April 2009 12:17
Defending deep and employing three defensive shields, as well as the heroics of goalkeeper Petr Cech, all combined to help Guus Hiddink's side succeed where so many others have failed.

1. Petr Cech

 Related ArticlesBarcelona v Chelsea actionBarcelona 0 Chelsea 0'Chelsea rewarded for negativity'Barcelona v Chelsea: Man markingPetr Cech hails defence as Chelsea quell BarcelonaPaper View: Chelsea hail Petr Cech the great in BarcelonaReports of the Czech Republic goalkeeper's demise were clearly greatly exaggerated. Ever since he collided with Stephen Hunt's knee, Cech has been a shadow his former self, losing ground to Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon in the race to be hailed the world's best goalkeeper. But, while he hardly made any saves for the highlights reel in Barcelona, he denied Daniel Alves, Alexander Hleb and Samuel Eto'o well and, as importantly, commanded his box whenever the hosts managed to find a way through the massed ranks of Chelsea's defence.

2. Depth

Conventional wisdom states defending deep is a risky business, but Chelsea were right to gamble. John Terry and Alex rarely ventured beyond the edge of their box, rendering the pace of Eto'o and Thierry Henry useless. While playing so deep hardly met with the approval of the Nou Camp's steep terraces – probably panicking the visiting fans too – Hiddink correctly assumed that doing so would stop Xavi, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta picking holes in the back line. Any ball would have to be perfectly weighted to beat the defence but elude Cech, a task beyond even them.

3. Weight of numbers

By starting deep and adding four defensively-minded midfielders to the banks of their backline, Chelsea ensured there were no gaps through which the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, Barcelona's creators-in-chief, could thread a pass. The hosts' frustration with this turn of events was visible from an early stage as Pep Guardiola's side became increasingly reliant on Alves's crossing rather than their usual methodical passing game. It played into Chelsea's hands, Eto'o lost between the towering Alex and Terry.

4. Man on Messi

The diminutive Argentine had been hailed before the game as a one-man demolition crew, but Jose Bosingwa handled him expertly. The Portuguese eschewed his usual marauding role to concentrate solely on Messi, blocking him whenever he turned, starving him of the ball. Right-footed left backs do well against Maradona's heir apparent, as the likes of Alvaro Arbeloa and Philipp Lahm have proved, and Ashley Cole's suspension could even be seen as a blessing in disguise.

5. Cunning

It would be a slur to suggest Hiddink condoned it, but Chelsea's use of what might be termed the tactical foul was exemplary. Just as Barcelona built up a head of steam, a niggling tackle would break up play, robbing the hosts of their rhythm. The Catalans thrive when they are allowed to drag a defence out of shape through their hypnotic passing. By ensuring Wolfgang Stark regularly broke up the game, Chelsea had time to regroup and reorganise.


Source: Telegraph