The cruel thing about soccer is that in an instant, 180 minutes of hard-won domination can be rendered useless. Case in point, yesterday’s Champions League semi-final match between Chelsea and Barcelona.
Over the course of two matches, Chelsea managed to shackle — statistically-speaking — the greatest Barcelona team ever, better than the likes of the early ‘90s “Dream Team” and the ’06 squad featuring Ronaldinho at his superhuman peak. Barcelona was running scared shitless, mistiming every pass in anticipation of hard tackles flying in, especially from one man — marauding midfielder Michael Essien.
It was Essien who gave Chelsea the advantage when the ball took a lucky deflection and fell fortuitously in his path for the most improbable of shots, exacting cruelty on Barcelona just nine minutes in.
“99 times out of 100 Essien would miss that shot,” the announcers said. They must’ve forgot homey has a flair for these kinds of things.
And so, after being out-played from then until literally the dying moment, with one last surge, Barcelona stole the match right from under Chelsea in the 93rd minute — word to Nightfox.
It was a rough couple of days for Londoners. Chelsea had lost it late, and a day before, it was Arsenal who lost it practically before it got under way — a slip from an Arsenal defender eight minutes in gifting rivals Manchester United a goal.
Not that Manchester United needed help. Again, tolerate-or-despise him, Cristiano Ronlado, prodded along by his larger-than-life ego, proved he’s the best player on the planet. While Chelsea made his closest rival, Lionel Messi, largely ineffectual, Ronaldo seized the semi-final stage to score twice, one of which any player with an ounce of humility wouldn’t have dared to even attempt.