An upset of epic proportions. A classic, legendary match that will go down as an all-time great in the history of the UEFA Champions League. This is why we watch sports. This is why we sit through dry, dreary 0-0 games, in hopes that maybe, just maybe we might witness a special moment. This is why the Champions League is considered the best tournament in the sport. Sure, the World Cup means more, but the format and quality of soccer is far superior in the Champions League.
To understand the significance of the Chelsea’s upset win yesterday, one must fully appreciate the excellence of Barcelona. Considered by many as the greatest team of all time, they have easily been the best team I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Their style of play is a mesmerizing combination of flair, artistry, grace, selflessness and speed. It is soccer at its purest, the ultimate definition of ‘The Beautiful Game’. The only team that even comes close in my mind, to emulating Barca’s ‘winning with style’, were the Thierry Henry led Arsenal team of 2003-04, when they went undefeated and won the Premier League. But even that legendary team’s accolades fade in comparison to the records stacked up by Barcelona in recent years. 3 straight league titles, and 2 Champions league trophies in the past four years is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2009, Barcelona won six trophies. Six!! La Liga, Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and the Supercopa de España. Not to pile any more pressure on LeBron James, but: “Not one, not two, not three…” Six. All in one year!
This was the mighty team Chelsea was up against. Sure, they held a 1-0 advantage after the 1st leg, but that game was home in London, where the ball repeatedly bounced Chelsea’s way. Surely Barca would find their rhythm at home and surely Chelsea wouldn’t repeat their heroic performance on the road? This is of course the same team I had described before this game as ‘lovable losers’. So let’s recap all the miraclulous moments from the 2nd leg:
- Gary Cahill, the starting central defender alongside John Terry, goes down with a hamstring injury and needs to be subbed out.
- Chelsea gave up an early goal (uh oh), match tied 1-1, Chelsea up on away goals.
- John Terry, the heart and soul of the defence, gets a straight red card for a needless knee to the back of Alexis Sanchez, who of course tumbled down like he’d been sniped, but that’s another topic for another day. (Fun fact: If you type John Terry in Google, the top 3 suggestions are John Terry penalty miss, John Terry red card, and John Terry racist…and that’s without even getting into his affair with the wife of a former teammate. Just a stand-up guy.)
- Chelsea, shocked by the red card, immediately give up another goal, both (oh no), Chelsea down 1-2.
- So heres the scenario: Chelsea down to 10 men, missing both starting central defenders, down 1-2 in the match, against arguably the greatest offensive team ever assembled, in their backyard. (If anyone tells you they still thought Chelsea had a chance to win at this stage, they are worse liars than Pinocchio.)
- Remarkably, Lampard finds enough space to pull off a magical pass, to put Ramires through on goal who does one better and scores with a sublime chip 15 yards out. (match tied 2-2, Chelsea up on away goals).
- Messi misses a penalty (wait. what?) that would’ve put the game away. A man who has scored 34, 31 and 41 goals in the last three La Liga years respectively, not to mention his 14 goals in the Champions League this year, missed a penalty. Incredible. He is human after all.
- Messi hits the post, and Cech makes two ridiculous saves to keep Chelsea in it.
- In the dying seconds, Torres, the $50 million dollar mistake man, scores on a breakaway to win it out right for Chelsea, causing Gary Neville (announcing the game as an analyst for Fox Sports) to lose his mind, run out of things to say and just scream.
- Final score 3-2. David versus Goliath? No thanks, I’ll take Chelsea vs Barca any day.
These miraculous moments of course, are few and far between, but as sports fans, this is what we live for. And hey, who knows? The next time you are in the middle of a tedious, ugly 0-0 game and want to turn off the tv, just think…what if you miss that magical moment?