I am in San francisco for a conference so I searched out Mad Dog in the Fog, reportedly the best soccer bar in the city to watch the game. Despite the early kickoff (11:45am) the bar was full and loud with both Barcelona and Chelsea fans.
Some quick thoughts on the game:
Guardiola went with a strange line-up with Alves on the bench and a back three of Puyol, Mascherano, Pique. Not the strongest defensive line-up and was a result lat summer not to sign another central defender, even when everyone could see that Barca had no depth at that position.
Barca started the game well and their quick passing and movement was giving Chelsea all sorts of problems. No surprise when Busquets scored after 35 minutes to make it 1-0 o aggregate.
When Chelsea captain John Terry was sent off two minutes later for kneeing Alexis off the ball, I had no doubt that Barcelona would win. Those feelings would only get stronger when a minute before half-time Messi feeds Iniesta and he slotted the ball past Cech to put Barca ahead in the tie.
But this turned in a three minute spell right before half-time and just after. In added time in the first-half, Barcelona let Ramires run onto a Lampard pass to make the score 2-1 and put Chelsea ahead on away goals. Incredibly sloppy defending by Barca, especially with so little time left in the half.
Then three minutes into the second half, Cesc was brought down in the box and Lionel Messi stepped up and hit the bar with his penalty. He scores and the tie is over as 10-man Chelsea was not going to attack and get another goal. But his miss gave Chelsea hope and belief.
The second half reminded me on the Champions League semi-final against Inter Milan a couple of years ago. They also managed to close down the Barca attack with only 10-men.
The longer the second half went on, the slower Barcelona’s passing and movement got. There was no plan B to their attack tonight and that was really disappointing
Fernando Torres scored in the last minute to make the final score 2-2 and end a terrible week for Barcelona fans. Who would have thought that facing the three biggest games of the season that that would be unable to win even one of them? To me though, the seeds for this defeat were sown in the summer when Barcelona failed to sign the defenders that they needed and the tactics of playing players out of position finally hurt them this week.