Wednesday, 25 April 2012

FC Barcelona vs Chelsea 2-2 - How Chelsea's Strategy Paid Off

Last Wednesday the Blues pulled off a remarkable win at Stanford Bridge, setting the stage for what promised to be a sure comeback by Barca at Camp Nou.  After all Barca had had 83% ball possession and the Chelsea goal appeared to be a stroke of luck.  Not so, there was disappointment by football fans around the globe, when Chelsea pulled off an upset victory yesterday at Camp Nou. 

Busquets got the go ahead in the 35th minute for Barca, which pointed toward a determination by Barca's star line up to win.  37 minutes into the match, John Terry was send off, leaving Chelsea to play shorthanded for 53 minutes.  To add insult to injury Iniesta made it 2-0 in the 43rd minute, which seemed to settle Chelsea's fate.  Hard defensive work, with a limited amount of counters paid off at 45+1 when Ramires narrowed the score to 2-1 just before the half.

In the second half Chelsea kept the rear tight and a few faux pas by Barcelona, including a missed penalty shot by Messi and a few more spoiled attempts at goal, finally gave the aggregate success to Chelsea.  Fernando Torres, who was subbed in the 80th minute, finally gave the final blow to Barca with his breakaway goal in injury time, making the comeback complete.  Chelsea did the unbelievable and defeated what is arguably the best  team in Europe, if not the world.  How did that happen?

Sepp  Herrberger, the post World War II coach of the 1954 World Cup winning team once said, "A game lasts 90 minutes and the ball is round."  In other words, "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." 

Chelsea's game strategy was a strong defence with limited counters.  That strategy worked.  Barcelona was unable to jump out of its box, continuing to try to penetrate and almost impregnable defence with short passes in very tight areas.  While it permitted them to break through occasionally it wasn't what was needed against Chelsea.  A few longer passes, shots from the distance and spreading out Chelsea's defence may have been a little more effective.

After watching the last three Barca games, two against Chelsea and the Spanish league match against Real Madrid, it is clear that Barca's strategy changes little.  It is hard for the team to go out of the box and adjust in what has been a successful strategy.  The other team managers noticed too. 

Chelsea, with just 28% of overall ball possession, took on a giant with defence and breakouts.  It is hard to argue that that strategy didn't work.

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