Three weeks ago I wrote, Inter do to Chelsea, what the Blues do to us! I could easily repeat the headline for this game as well. That would be pointless though, what’s the use of repeating the obvious.
I do have a few other observations and it’s better to run through them. Before I do that, let me preface this article with the fact that I’m truly delighted Chelsea have been dumped out of the Champions League and this article is not an attempt to defend a Russian billionaire’s plaything.
The first stand out issue in the game was the referee. In this article I had discussed why UEFA refereeing needs an overhaul. Last night’s game was just another example of the rotten quality of European referees.
Even if we leave aside the two blatant penalty decisions, there were far too many inconsistencies in Herr Stark’s decision making. The Inter strike force was way to willing to go down to ground at every little contact and the official was only too happy to oblige. On the other end, even Rugby tackles didn’t merit a whistle. Ultimately, Drogba was sent off for a stamp on a man who shouldn’t have been on the pitch at that time if his repeated, cynical fouls had been duly punished.
It does make me wonder whether the referee had specific instructions from UEFA (we cannot put it beyond Platini), or was it his personal vendetta against Chelsea, or was he bribed by Inter/UEFA/Bookies. I could have put his performance down to ineptitude if it had been consistent, but the glaring differences raise serious questions that very few will actually ask.
The second major problem I had with the game was the success of the Dark Lord of Anti-Football. If you believe in winning at all costs or that ends justify means, you can appreciate Mourinho. On the contrary, if you have any sense of right and wrong, and love for football, then you just cannot stand the sight of the Special Dark One.
I am sure Mourinho is an extremely intelligent man and a master tactician. He was clearly aware that set-pieces offer the biggest threat to his otherwise solid defence. I also have a feeling he knew his team will get away with the Rugby tackles.
Either he’s figured out how incompetent UEFA ref’s are or he had insider knowledge and assurances. Maybe a bit of both. There is no way he could have asked his players to tackle that way if he hadn’t been sure. After all, Chelsea are a team whose defence is based on his training. If the Blues had scored from a penalty, there was no way this Inter team would have found a way back into the game.
The last major issue I had with this game was the post match comments and analysis. I cringe every single time I see the vast majority of writers analyse the game based on the result. Yes, Chelsea appeared to be toothless. But Inter weren’t enthralling the audience either. Some long punts from Sneijder don’t make the Italians a brilliant counter attacking team. And just because the team sheet had three people who are supposed to be strikers doesn’t mean it was an attacking line up.
For large parts Inter played deep in their own half and the likes of Eto’o and Pandev rarely got out of their half. You don’t need tactical genius when you put 10 men behind the ball and hope a long ball finds one of your forwards. It helps when one of your long ball merchants has brilliant hoofing technique and the forwards have decent pace and experience.
In the end I’m not really concerned about Inter or Chelsea. I’m concerned about football. Two top clubs produced a borefest, the referee’s integrity and/or competence raises serious questions, and the commentators/critics miss the point altogether with their result worshipping analysis. If this isn’t a footballing travesty, what is!?