There was a telling moment in the first half that summed up last night’s match. Ivanovic was on the right flank. The Atletico Madrid defence was in parallel unison with its midfield. Chelsea, with six defenders on the field was in their half. Our player looked up and saw there were no options. He passed back. Within a few seconds we lost the ball as we were closed down. For all of Chelsea’s effort there was simply no clear way through despite having Hazard and Willian in the side.
Walking to the ground before the game there was that buzz you feel when playing in European competition. Seeing opposition fans in their full colours, singing in the streets and even sunshine. We headed into the ground early having been lucky enough to meet and speak to some of the Chelsea players before the game.
This should have been one of those magical European nights but when the starting line-up was shown on the TV screens around the ground it simply did not make sense. It seemed to permeate onto the stands where the atmosphere was simply woeful. Cole, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Luiz AND Ivanovic? Who was going to play where? The conclusion was that the lack of depth in our squad and the suspensions/injuries/cup tied players meant that we had few other options - which is disgraceful for a club of our stature.
Enough about tactics – Jose knows best. But there was something missing on the pitch as well as on the terraces. Chelsea players could not even complete simple passes to each other. It was almost as if our recent performance against Liverpool had taken too much out of our side. Is the reality that we need to properly have had some negative history against our opposition to rile our side into truly being able to focus?
I have to hold my hands up and say that I underestimated Atletico. Last night they were simply the better side. Yes, if Terry had scored to make it 2-1 then we probably would have gone on to win the game. But their equaliser came from utterly disgraceful defending – ironic considering over half our side were defenders - and also a minute before half time. Their goalkeeper was excellent – maybe we should sign him? In the game of Kabaddi that both sides played there was one that could hold their breath for a lot longer than the other. The visitors were well drilled and I wish them luck in the final.
The European journey has come to an end and it has been an eventful one. For me, four new stadia visited on the continent and the opportunity to witness us playing a couple of very good sides in PSG and Atletico. There is still the outside chance of a cup but it feels like we have used all our jokers this season. The positives are the amount of skill we have in our squad and perhaps it will only be next season that we flourish. We need a new striker and one who celebrates his goals instead of feeling some sort of allegiance to a former club having had so much support from his current employers.
Onto Norwich and Cardiff – let’s hope we remain positive despite last night’s disappointment. Let us focus on the fact that we would have been more than pleased if someone had told us we would reach the semis of the European Cup and finished in the top three of our league with the possibility of winning it too. We still believe in you Jose and Chelsea.