Photo credit: AP
Barcelona is the epitome of the beautiful game: tiki taka from Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, steady defense in Puyol and Pique, searing runs by Dani Alves. And yet even the best, most talented teams can be undone by true teamwork and total football. Today's version of total football came in the shape of total defense. Brian McBride put it well when he said that rarely does one see two forwards playing left and right backs. And Drogba, Kalou, and Torres performed this labor splendidly. Di Mateo held the team in line for a perfect defensive second half despite being a man down.
John Terry's character mistakes, and we won't put that lightly, nearly cost the team this game. It's not the first time his actions have pained the team and perhaps the "blues" were able to look past it and regroup on the field. True, if Ramires had not struck the first goal for Chelsea, we would be praising Messi and company, but it's the undeniable determination of the Chelsea defense and a scintillating performance by Petr Cech that brought it home for the London team.
This was a tale of two talented forwards: Messi and Torres. Messi has the privilege and the stigma of being the best player in the world. He thought his high, controlled penalty kick would beat Cech but the woodwork had other ideas. Same thing happened later in the match when a low shot from the Argentinean was negated by both Cech and the left post.
Then there is Fernando Torres. The 50 million pound attacker has seen lower goal production than most goalies get in recent times. But today he showed the composure necessary to ice the game and rise to fame once more. All is forgiven when a player scores a clinching goal like this. And he also played phenomenal defense when he had to, so we must argue that he showed his worth as a complete player today.
The most credit goes to Meireles, Ramires, Ianovic, Mikkel, Bosingwa, Cole, for sealing the 18 yard box with barbed wires and holding a perfect line. This is how the game was won, in the back with the most solid teamwork defense that club soccer has seen in recent years. This is how Italy won World Cups, how Greece won the Euro, how the United States got to the 2009 Confederations Cup final. Lead from the back, always, to ensure a game. A perfect ten in the second half for this defense of ten men on the pitch.