I must first say, just to start with, how pleased I am with Barca's performance, with the exception of some unedifying behaviour (come on, guys, we're supposed to be better than that.) The team fought hard, worked their asses off, produced one of the best performances so far this season and deserved more than they got. But that's football.
Rijkaard's post-match comments are as always worth looking at, although in this case I thought he was actually quite mad at the referee at the end, contrary to his claims. In any case, he's back to being sensible Frank again, thank god.
I'll start with the things that really made me angry about this match and go on to the good things. My report of the game at Stamford Bridge reflected the way that game went - without controversy, foul play or much incident. I accepted our defeat as due to us, and praised the Chelsea players because they'd proven to be better. This time, it was a little different. First, a roll-call of shame.
On the Barca side, Marquez and Deco were both guilty of going down far too easily. Not to be out done, Drogba replied for Chelsea, having 3 rolls on the Camp Nou pitch (perhaps it was comfortable?) in the first 5 minutes. Robben made a few abortive attempts, but he was hardly the worst offender.
Messi should not have pushed Boulahrouz. His booking was fully deserved. I don't care what the circumstances were. As hilarious as his Mister Innocent act after the fact was, it's not what people want to see from a young, emerging talent. Happily he's usually much more sedate, and will hopefully go back to being so after this.
Marquez's stamp on Essien's crown jewels, whether deliberate or not, was too much. Even if he didn't mean it, he should have tried harder to avoid it.
Motta grows older but not wiser. I remember him getting into a fight with some Celtic players 3 seasons ago in the UEFA Cup. Sadly, he hasn't changed. Far too rough with his tackling, and far too eager to square up to Chelsea players. That sneaky trip of Drogba was disgraceful.
Carvolho wasn't the worst of the Chelsea players, but the tackle that injured Gudjohnsen was very untidy and his behaviour in kicking Messi in the chest and then gesturing at him to get up was breath-taking. Not in a good way. He then went one better by kicking international teammate Deco in the crown jewels.
Drogba had me seething for long periods in this match with the way he just charged into anything in ruby and blue that moved. Stamping, shoving, kicking out...Drogba does it all. Disappointing, given his recent (apparent) rehabilitation.
Lastly, John Terry - but only because he's captain and supposed to impose discipline instead of doing stupid things himself. Other than kicking the ball into Deco's midriff, he was fine.
other unsporting behaviour
Both teams were guilty of trying to referee the match, surrounding official after and before every potential call. Barca doesn't even behave like this against Real Madrid. Certainly neither team were like this in the last game at Stamford Bridge. Disgraceful stuff.
On a related note, Mourinho claims that Chelsea players only got booked because the Barca players were putting pressure on the ref. I thought they got booked for trying to maim the opposition. The articles I'm coming across blaming all the ugly aspects of the game on Barca are simply inexplicable to me. Although they are from mostly English, Premiership-following sources...hmm, maybe not so inexplicable. Different standards and all. I'll expand on this later.
Poor guy. I saw him referee the Milan derby and thought he was fine. Sending off Materazzi was stupid, but he had to follow the letter of the law. This time, both teams are complaining about his decisions afterwards, so according to the clique he's either done everything or nothing right. Personally, I thought he did the best he could. Probably shouldn't have booked so many players for dissent, but that's his call.
There was no real rhythm to it because of all the stoppages, but it was still exciting stuff. Deco's opening goal created the perfect start for Barca. That's the way we need to start games, by rocking opponents back on their heels, catching them off-guard and scoring quickly. Then the team can relax and play their attacking game.
Lampard's equaliser was really bizarre. If he meant it then it was absolutely brilliant, but he's going to have his work cut out making the case for that because of his initial fumble with the ball.
I was so damn pleased for Gudjohnsen, scoring his first goal in Camp Nou. What a rebuke it would have been to Mourinho if the scoreline had stayed at 2-1, with the way he used Guddy - a loyal servant of Chelsea for six seasons - to stir up cheap controversy before the game. To be fair, though, a lot of the credit goes to Marquez's amazing long-range pass, and then Ronaldinho leaving Boulahrouz for dead to thread the perfect ball through for Guddy at the near post. He celebrated - oh, how he celebrated. I think there was even some club badge smacking going on.
Drogba's late goal hurt. It hurt because we were far more effective going forward in the second half, created more chances, and couldn't finish enough of them. Because in between the stops and starts for various bits of foul play, we played some lovely football. But credit to Chelsea, they never give up, and Mourinho's substitutes were very astute.
Barca fell apart after Drogba's equaliser. Even if the ref had allowed us to play out the full 6 minutes of stoppage time we wouldn't have scored. Understandable, but also rather worrying.
If this were any other team, I'd say that we should have closed up shop after going ahead and attempted to cling on to our lead. But this is Barcelona, so the mere suggestion of 10 men behind the ball is insulting. Nevermind.
I'm not going to do my usual person-by-person comments. Only some random observations. I was greatly heartened by our display in general. We went back to basics - everyone attacks, and everyone defends. When an opponent has the ball, 3 or 4 players close him down. When a teammate has the ball, there's always support. I was worried about losing again, based on our sedate performance in Stamford Bridge. But if Barca play like this then we shouldn't be afraid of anyone.
The defence is getting flack for giving up 2 goals, both of which could arguably have been prevented. (Did you know when Barca last let in 2 goals at home in European competition? Well, it's been a while.) Zambrotta should have covered Lampard better for the first, although given the freakishness of the goal he can't take that much blame. In the second both Edmilson and Marquez went to sleep to let Drogba through. However, as Rijkaard likes to say, when we let in goals it's the whole team's fault.
I actually thought we defended very well in general. When he wasn't going down easily or roughening opponents up, Marquez had a pretty good game. Zambrotta's finally looking like clicking with Messi in attack. Puyol was regular old Puyol, enough said. Gio left gaps at the back when going forward but was solid overall.
Edmilson looked good - better than Motta, in any case. Xavi was fine (and perhaps shouldn't have been bought off), and Deco was man of the match, for me. He scored one of his typical goals from outside the box just when we needed it most, and ran the match from midfield with Xavi. Eager to defend, as well, which is always nice to see. Of the big names who were lacking form, Deco at least seems to be back.
Poor Gudjohnsen looked crushed at having to go off injured. He worked hard as always, tracking back and making runs, although he still doesn't look that threatening. We can't ask for more than a goal against Chelsea, though. Here's hoping he gets better soon.
Messi matched up against Ashley Cole much better than he did last time. He has something that even Ronnie has been lacking recently - the confidence that he will go past his marker. In this game, he failed to dominate, just like against Real, but did enough to make his marker look silly, just like against Real. That cutback to Ronnie early in the first half was perfect; Ronnie really should have done better with it. I was pleased with his display, just coming back from an ankle injury.
Ronaldinho was great in more than one sense. Sure, he's still not back to his best, but we saw more of the skill and audacity that made him so wonderful this time around. His pass for Guddy's goal was perfect. There were more inch-perfect passes, too, especially one into Gudjohnsen that was very similar to his effort in Milan last season. Guddy really should have done better with it. Welcome back, Ronnie.
More than that, though, he worked alongside Puyol, calming other players down and preventing confrontations. He wasn't wearing the captain's armband today, but he acted like one.
This result, while not disastrous in terms of qualification, is nevertheless a setback. I'm not expecting any favours from Mourinho. He isn't obligated to play a strong team in either of Chelsea's next fixtures. After all, they're pretty much through. So that's fair enough. Our fate is in our own hands, and if we manage to somehow screw it up, well, we'll only have ourselves to blame. The next 2 CL games are must wins.
In this game, Rijkaard opted to bring on Giuly and play Ronaldinho at center-forward rather than make a straight swap for Saviola. This combined with other recent behaviour has led me to conclude that club suits have been pressuring him not to cup-tie Saviola so that they can sell him in January. This is clearly madness. I will go insane if Rijkaard doesn't play Saviola while Gudjohnsen's injured. There's simply no other bearable or viable option. If Saviola doesn't start against Depor, he's never going to.
Speaking of that game, my biggest worry coming out of this one is the demoralising effect conceding a late equaliser will have had on the team. They battled so hard, only to come away with meager rewards. Hopefully they'll pick themselves up for the next Liga game, because Depor aren't going to be easy opponents.
I watched it with Chinese commentary from two guys who obviously spend a lot of time watching Chelsea matches in the Premiership and not a lot watching La Liga. (I gather this from their extensive comments regarding Ashley Cole's performances so far this season and from being told that Motta has been in good form. Take it from someone who watches all the Barca matches - he hasn't. Also, Giuly is not a center forward.)
It was interesting to hear their views on what was a foul, what should be or shouldn't be a penalty and Chelsea's game-winning methods. It's probably belabouring the point a bit to point out yet again that a foul in Spain isn't necessarily a foul in England. While exaggerating contact is seen as more acceptable in Spain, violent conduct is more acceptable in England. (It is my personal opinion that had the Stephen Hunt challenge on Petr Cech happened in Spain everyone would have blamed Hunt.
If I start, I'll be here all day. So briefly: the man is brilliant. But he'll do anything to win, and if he believes half of the stuff he says, then he lives in an alternate reality.
I'll let Edmilson speak for me (although it's from the Sun, so you'll never know if it's made up, but if it isn't, the quiet man has more wit than I thought):
“The worst thing about playing Chelsea is having to listen to Mourinho afterwards.”
I'm exhausted, but proud. I hope the Barca team feel the same. I know Chelsea will.