This was meant to be a memorable European night. It is not often that I look forward to a match so much that I am actually thinking about the game all day long. The walk across Wandsworth Bridge towards the ground swigging a beer on a warm, sunny early evening made me remember the first few Chelsea matches I attended with my father and it brought a tear to my eye.
It was certainly going to be an emotional occasion – a manager who should never have left Chelsea returning to his old stomping ground where he was so successful, and a win for Chelsea meant that with only Manchester United and Barcelona to fear in the coming rounds we would have a good chance of reaching the final in Madrid again.
The alarm bells rang as soon as the team was announced. Carlo played his “entertaining” formation of 4-3-3. Two strikers, no right wing and Zhirkov and Malouda the supposed dream combination in the left. The midfield was fairly defensive with Ballack and Mikel holding fort and Lampard stuck in the middle of nowhere.
As always we had the usual incompetent Champions’ League referee – making a big song and dance about booking players in the middle of the park but then missing crucial moments of the game such as what seemed an almost certain penalty or two in Chelsea’s favour. With no cover on the right wing my fear was that they would destroy us on that side of the pitch: in fact, Inter found most of their space down our left hand side where Zhirkov and Malouda were playing – how was this possible? Later in the game Joe Cole came on for Michael Ballack (who actually had a pretty decent game) and yet seemed to occupy a position in central midfield rather than on the right wing!
The stand-out player for Mourinho’s side was Snejder… he was simply immense and helped his side win the battle in central midfield. He set up the goal for Eto’o (a player who not too long ago was considering a big money move to play in Uzbekistan!) and was a massive pain in the posterior.
The bottom line is that Chelsea had little luck and created few clear cut chances on goal – I don’t recall their ‘keeper being very busy and our set pieces were a waste of time.
What have we learnt from this then? More importantly, what has Roman learnt? It is hard to be critical of an owner who has pumped so much money into the club but ridding the club of Mourinho looks like one of the biggest mistakes in Chelsea’s history. The club seems to be going backwards now, with an inept manager in charge who seems to want to pander to the so-called neutrals in the game instead of having that aggressive streak required to win trophies. It is quite demoralising to imagine what could have been if Mourinho had stayed but now we have to live with the consequences.