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Fall guy in bawl game
THERE are times when the hypocrisy of the national media is astounding. And nowhere was it more evident than in the coverage of the midweek Champions League semi-final first leg between Chelsea and Barcelona.
Chelsea’s 1-0 victory was hewn out of sheer determination and a thorough game-plan by interim boss Roberto di Matteo which was carried out magnificently by his players. And for me, a Liverpool red, that was one of the most difficult sentences I have ever dreamt up, written and typed.
I detest Chelsea, though not quite with the same sort of loathing reserved for Merseyside neighbours Everton and certainly not with the equal amount of passion reserved for a team that counts red among its myriad of other colours worn some way along the East Lancashire Road.
Football tribalism – keep it coming, provided there’s only vitriol and not violence.
The difference between Chelsea and those other two is that for all the loathing of Everton and the dark side, there is also an underlying grudging respect.
For the Stamford Bridge lot there is nothing but acrimony. It’s that loadsa-money attitude that sprung from west London when the obscenely wealthy Roman Abramo-rich took over. Suddenly here was this great club, this new powerhouse.
Sorry, with greatness comes a legacy of achievement, of accomplishment, of status, not with how many millions of pounds, dollars, roubles or even euros are at your disposal.
Under principal red devil SAF, the dark side have been the best force in England for almost two decades – now that is the most difficult sentence I have ever or will ever write – while Everton’s last decade has been one of perennial over-achievement given the scarcity of resources at Goodison Park.
Under the assured management of David wild eyes Moyes – Christopher Walken would be the perfect actor to play the Blues boss if ever there was a Hollywood film entitled “A Nightmare on Gwladys Street” – Everton have consistently confounded all expectations armed with a pocket-ful of slummy compared to the millions forked out by the Reds across Stanley Park.
Chelsea are just, well, a rich man’s plaything. They’re not even a project, just a very expensive toy, whose owner demands success on Continental fields after conquests in the domestic arena have now been garnered.
This week’s single-goal win over Barcelona, without doubt the world’s most attractive team to watch, inches the Bridge brigade closer to what would be their second Champions League final.
And did not our national media crow about it.
Di Matteo’s master-plan of not conceding an inch and hurting the Catalan crew on the counter-attack was rightly hailed as it did yield the required victory and, even more significant, quelled the threat of conceding an away goal, even though that was more down to Barca’s profligate finishing.
Also saluted across column-wide acres was the scorer of that potentially decisive strike, Didier Drogba.
Some reports sniffingly mentioned that besides his marksmanship the Ivory Coast front-man also indulged in some unedifying theatrics.
Now come on – Drogba is a cheat.
The numerous times he threw himself to the turf suffering what looked like a fatal wound from a sniper, perhaps stationed in one of the high apartments in the surrounding Chelsea village, were not just boring as one newspaper suggested, they were examples of serial cheating.
This is a man built like a brick outhouse yet who trembles, quakes, shakes and quivers to the turf like a pack of cards.
He is not alone. Liverpool’s livewire Luis Suarez too often favours the horizontal rather than the vertical, while Everton’s Nikica Jelavic could comfortably sport the nickname jelly-legs.
But Drogba is the epitomé of the con trick. Never mind commentators declaring how “when he is at it” few defenders can live with him.
Fine. But he is only “at it” when he is also flinging and flailing his frame through pain-filled pirouettes, or hoops of hurt, from which he somehow miraculously recovers to sprint on to the end of a cross and become the hero of the 90 minutes.
But just for a few seconds place the multi-coloured slipper, sorry football boot, on the other foot.
Say Drogba’s drama-queen display had been performed by Barca’s Lionel Messi or Alexis Sanchez with the result going Barca’s way in midweek.
Oh, how those banner headlines and television talking-heads would have hollered, screamed and yelled – a bit like Drogba, perhaps.
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