Matchdebating: Football isn’t all about the passing game

When Barcelona lost to Internazionale in the 2010 Champions League Semi-Final, the Catalan press declared that a “tear had rolled down the face of the game”.
Last Tuesday, Chelsea replicated Inter’s success. Once again, a limited, conservative approach had triumphed over attacking flair and imagination, allegedly to the detriment of the “Beautiful Game”.
Like in 2010, the Spanish press were aggrieved. Sport labelled Barca’s demise as “Unjust, cruel, unmerited.” Cruel, perhaps. But to call Chelsea’s victory “unjust” or “unmerited” is, firstly, naive.
That Barca are a superior football team to Chelsea is hard to deny. The technical skill and attacking fluidity which the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi exhibit on a weekly basis is unrivalled.
The understanding that exists between them borders on telepathy, and it can be truly wonderful to watch, which only makes Chelsea’s victory more impressive. The Spanish media and fans must follow the example of Barca manager Josep Guardiola, who graciously accepted that Barca cannot expect to win every match in which they have more possession than their opponents. If the best team always won, football would not be the spectacle it is.
In the meantime, Barca must take pride in the extent to which the best teams in Europe must adapt to compete at Camp Nou, and find a new way of attacking defences as resolute as Chelsea’s.
Perhaps, even more importantly, the reaction of Sport is unfair. Through defiance and discipline, and two excellently taken goals, the Blues earned their result. Chelsea reaching the final at Barca’s expense has not damaged the game. During Guardiola’s time in charge, the Catalans have won La Liga three times and the Champions League twice. Their formula, when perfected, remains the winning one, as proven by Athletic Bilbao’s wins over Manchester United in the Europa League.
On the flip side, few teams who adopt Chelsea’s tactics will succeed against Barcelona. In fact, had it not been one of Lionel Messi’s rare off-nights, Chelsea might well not have succeeded themselves. Their victory was a surprise; the kind of which we should be grateful to see.
Football fans should savour Barcelona while they can. They are no doubt a fantastic team. But we should enjoy that rare occasion when a team gets the better of them, as we don’t want the beautiful game to become predictable.


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