Blues Best Benfica
Chelsea defeats Benfica 1-0 in first leg of Champions League quarterfinal
Where has this defensive discipline been all season for Chelsea? For most of the match at Benfica yesterday they looked like the stubborn Chelsea defense of old. Even Cech looked much better than he’s been for much of this season with several fine saves. Sure Benfica threatened here and there, but the back four of Luiz, Terry, Cole, and a very surprising Ferreira remained focused, unified, and got the job done.
When I initially heard Di Matteo was starting Kalou and Mikel, I was a bit concerned. They’ve both had rough seasons, particularly Kalou who has barely earned a start this year. But, they were both spry, didn’t seem a bit rusty, kept mistakes at bay, and had an all-around excellent game. Kalou even punched in the goal via a smart pass from Torres. Speaking of, Fernando had a solid outing as well. Like many other Chelsea fans, I wish he’d go on a scoring rampage, but the important thing is to keep winning and he definitely helped Chelsea do that yesterday.
Surprisingly, Mata had an off night. He seemed tired (rightly so after all the big games he’s played in such a short span) and I was surprised he wasn’t subbed in the second half.
Ramires drove me nuts with his poor final passes, until the qualities I admire about his game actually initiated Chelsea’s goal. It was his acceleration and tenacity that got the ball to Torres up the right wing, which was followed by Torres’ pass in to Kalou who scored.
It was pleasing to see Chelsea take care of business so matter-of-factly, with no major defensives gaffes and no goals allowed. It was also great to see them get the result using several players who haven’t been in the lineup much recently (wish Malouda had also participated) – that must be a morale booster for both starters and bench-warmers, as well as good for locker room harmony.
So now, with things looking grim in the Premier League for Chelsea, the club finds itself one game away from a Champions League semifinal spot. Who would’ve thought that was a remote possibility back in December? Benfica visits Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, April 4 for the return leg where Chelsea will have to resist the urge to relax with their 1-0 lead, and remain vigilant to finish off sure-to-be-feisty Benfica.
Will Chelsea advance to the Champions League semifinals?
Posted on March 29, 2012, in Champions League and tagged Ashley Cole, Champions League quarterfinals, Champions League semifinals, Chelsea fans, Chelsea v. Benfica, David Luiz, Fernando Torres, Florent Malouda, John Terry, Juan Mata, Mikel, Paulo Ferreira, Petr Cech, Ramires, Roberto Di Matteo, Salomon Kalou, Stamford Bridge, UEFA Champions League. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.