At the time, the entire crew answered with a resounding “no.” But after tonight’s performance by Chelsea against Barcelona, should the World Football Daily crew re-think the listener’s question?
Was it a miracle? Or was it just a monumental defensive display with a counter attacking twist?
It was a fascinating evening of European football. Everything was going according to plan for the West London club. Thirty minutes gone in the first half, no goals conceded and defensively, they picked up exactly where they left off at Stamford Bridge last week.
But after a tornado of attacks from Barcelona, the Chelsea defense finally succumbed. They failed to pick up Sergio Busquets in the box and in turn, he easily slotted home the first goal of the night. Eight minutes later, Iniesta hit a sweet strike to make it 2-0. Advantage Barcelona and at this point, everybody expected the flood gates to open. Instead…a moment of madness!
John Terry decided to knee Alexis Sanchez from behind, right between the legs and the linesman informs the referee who then shows the former England captain a straight red card. An idiotic and unnecessary act from Chelsea’s leader and with each step he shamelessly took towards the dressing room, it felt like a stamp in the heart for Chelsea fans. Surely Barcelona’s dominance would payoff with lots of goals now. Surely Terry’s stupidity would be punished. Or would it?
Just before half-time and moments after Terry’s sending off, Frank Lampard delivered a delicious signature pass that split Barcelona’s phantom defense and Ramires capped it off with a delightful chip Xavi, Iniesta or Messi would be proud of. It was exquisite and deserving of the run Ramires made to get into that position. The goal stunned the Camp Nou. Stunned the players. And stunned Guardiola. How many Barcelona fans said a little prayer before the second half? How many fans believed Lionel Messi would bail them out of trouble?
It was a night however where the world’s best player lost his magical touch. Messi has scored more than 60 goals this season but he couldn’t find the back of the net against Chelsea. And the most glaring of all misses was his penalty effort that hit the woodwork. Barcelona needed another hero to step forward but nobody had that killer finish. As the minutes painfully passed and with every kick of the ball, you felt more and more like the script was never going to veer in the direction of Barcelona. Not on this night. Not against this Chelsea team.
This is the same team that capitulated under Andre Villas Boas on a weekly basis. This is the same set of players who lacked confidence and any type of spirit for the majority of the Premier League season. I’ve said the same thing repeatedly since Andre Villas Boas was fired. This team will win to spite him. They now believe in themselves. It’s evident throughout the entire club. They had an obvious swagger even when they were losing 2-0. And after they made it 2-1, you felt like there was still another headline waiting to be written.
The final say came from the one player who suffered under Andre Villas Boas dictatorship the most. Fernando Torres returned to Spain with Chelsea as a 50 million pound flop and left Spain with Chelsea a 50 million pound hero. He ran his heart out and dodged the challenge of Victor Valdes to bury the goal that could deliver Roman Abramovich the Holy Grail!
But it’s not just a win against Barcelona that is driving Chelsea towards unexpected glory. Roberto Di Matteo and Eddie Newton have added a certain magic to this once woeful team. Call it belief. Call it confidence. Call it men leading men. Something is swinging down the Kings Road again and this time it’s not Lionel Messi’s shorts.
Al Michaels, a famous U.S. sports announcer once asked if we believed in miracles. In modern day football, against this particular Barcelona team and with only 10-men at the Camp Nou on a Champions League semi-final night, I would say a smidgen of me believes a miracle did happen tonight…