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Formidable, Monsieur [by Gary Watton]

Formidable, Monsieur

Champions_League_CFC_PicTrust Chelsea to leave it late and pluck success from the jaws of despair. In truth, PSG had scored a late goal eight nights earlier, so we did likewise, and they only have themselves to blame. In fact Chelsea had hit the crossbar twice in the second half, so PSG were riding their luck. Mind you, the visitors looked very capable of holding out for a 1-0 loss until Demba Ba rescued the home team.

It was kind of weird how both substitutes scored the Chelsea goals. Was this a vindication of Mourinho? Or maybe Jose should have played the two scorers from the start? Either way, who cares? Chelsea are through to the last four again – in dramatic fashion. One thing we learnt from the other night was how far Torres has now slipped down the pecking order. He is probably fourth behind Eto’o, Schurrle, and Demba Ba as someone whom the manager rates as likely to score if placed up front. To be fair to Fernando, he did provide a good cameo when he came on late, producing a fine mazy run in the penalty area which predictably ended in failure. He also needs to take a leaf out of the book of Demba Ba.

It was the latter who gambled on a run towards the six-yard box when the admirable Azpilicueta fired a shot which rebounded into the path of Demba Ba. The Senegal international just about did the rest from close range. Maybe Torres needs to ask himself why he was not stealing into the six-yard box to poach such an opportunity. It strikes me that Fernando prefers to score the perfect goal and scoring ugly goals is not what he is about. So kudos therefore goes to Demba Ba for being the poacher that we so desperately need in such tight situations. His opportunism was the fine dividing line between further glory and a quarter-final exit. God bless him.

As for the rest of the team. Petr Cech more than redeemed himself for his awful efforts in Paris. JT was rarely troubled while Cahill was outstanding. Azpilicueta and Ivanovic were really solid. Those two deserve enormous credit for their contributions this season. Up front, Eto’o was a bit subdued, but he is just back from injury. Schurrle obviously took his goal well and nearly struck a second after the interval. He was lucky not to get booked for falling in the penalty area and demanding a penalty. I also thought that he is way too predictable on the left flank, always looking to cut inside on to his right foot. Lamps did his best with a few fine passes. He did pick up a yellow card in the first half, which left him having to be cautious in the tackle. To Frank’s credit, he has become the complete midfielder: he can pass, he can certainly shoot, and he now covers and tracks back and puts in an all-round shift. It’s such a pity that age is beginning to rob him of the pace for the pressure cooker of midfield. Meanwhile, of our three Brazilians, David Luiz remains a box of tricks.

There is always a scorching long-range shot waiting round the corner, followed probably by giving away cheap possession. He is one of my favourite players and yet the guy whose name sounds like Louise sometimes plays like someone called Louise! As for Oscar, his free kick was superb. He can create something out of nothing but I will maintain that he goes absent for large parts of a match. Can we not play him in the pocket between midfield and attack? He’s way too isolated on the flanks. Finally, pride of place perhaps goes to Willian. If only he scored more goals, he would be the complete midfielder, but in time he probably will. For the time being, Willian rarely loses possession. He seems to have taken on Mata’s knack of distributing the ball really well around him. Willian’s good use of the ball will be extremely important in the semi finals [and final?] as we simply cannot afford to give the ball away to dangerous opponents.

What of PSG? Well, I was impressed by how they started at the Bridge. They had real attacking intent in the first ten minutes and didn’t look like they were going to be parking a bus as Chelsea struggled to see the ball. However, as the match wore on, the visitors started to retreat further and further to their own final third. This negated their goal threat but left them extremely hard to play through. We were unable to play good through balls without them being intercepted. We also lacked a Hazard who could bomb down the wing and get beyond the full backs. Instead, as every team would do in our position, we had to abandon our patient, probing game and try the last resort of pumping long balls into the box for Ba, Eto’o, and er Torres. In the end, one such ball was always going to eventually create a chance. Then PSG also abandoned the beautiful game and sought to do the same and so nearly succeeded. Perhaps if PSG had played with more ambition and fully utilised the attacking threat that they possessed, then they might easily have obtained an away goal, instead of clinging on to the 1-0 deficit.

In the end it was a victory for the team that persevered rather than the team that tried to doggedly defend. As for Mr Mourinho, who will ever forget his sprint down the touchline to celebrate and/or issue instructions? Whatever the motives for his antics, he cracked me up. How he gets away with it, I don’t know! I didn’t realise that the technical area extended as far as the corner flag. Oh well. Chelsea are in with a fighting chance of the top prize again. Happy days!

[the author can be stalked at http://chelsea.thefootballnetwork.net]

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