May 7, 2009

What a finish

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Depending on what side of the pitch you were supporting, yesterday’s Champions League semifinal between Chelsea and Barcelona was cause for heartbreak or cause for joyous celebration.

Everything seemed to be going fine for Chelsea in the first half. They had scored a dynamite goal to give them the 1-0 aggregate advantage and they were defending Barcelona’s stunning attackers quite well. But after the whistle for the first half went, it all started going downhill for the London side.

The second half was clearly slanted towards Barcelona in both play and with the refereeing. While head ref Tom Overbo was clearly out of his mind on several calls and non-calls for both teams, he was more favouring to Barca. There were at least two occasions when the Spanish side handled the ball in the box that should have been penalties. There was the free kick awarded to Chelsea on the line of the 18-yard box when the foul clearly occurred inside it. There were non-calls on a couple of questionable scoring situations as well.

You could argue that he was trying to make up for a horrendous call that sent off Barca defender Eric Abidal when he didn’t even touch Nicolas Anelka on a breakaway run, but sending a team to a critical loss like this one is nothing compared to red carding a player.

So, on a goal that will surely be featured in many highlight reels for the rest of the year, Barcelona will advance to face Manchester United in the Champions League final on May 27. It will surely be a match for the ages, with both teams vying for the biggest crown in club soccer.

Sure, you can expect a Chelsea appeal that likely will solve nothing. Is there really anything that FIFA can do to rectify a situation like this? A replay I would think is out of the question at this high level of play, this late in the season.

But, with the good and the bad of yesterday’s match, you can make no mistake about it, there’s few situations that could have supplied the drama that Chelsea-Barcelona did yesterday. And I’m talking about in all of sports.

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