Barcelona’s dream of defending their Champions League title came to an abrupt end today, with an herculean defensive performance from Chelsea forcing Barca to relinquish the chance to defend their European title in the final. The performance wasn’t bad, but the missed chances and silly defensive mistakes were the team’s downfall yet again, just like last week in London.
Here are the ratings for today’s match:
Victor Valdés – 5.5
His only save worthy of that name on this tie was from a Drogba shot from the middle of the pitch; he could have done a better job in both Chelsea goals, especially the first one from Ramires. He also indirectly injured Piqué; not a night to remember at all
Carles Puyol – 7
Showed his usual commitment as captain of this team and stopped a lot of Chelsea’s attacks, always looking calm and composed at the back. Also participated in Barcelona’s attacking assault, although not with the desired results.
Gerard Piqué – N/A
Collided with Valdés early in the game, looked like he was alright afterwards, but had to be subbed very early as he didn’t manage to fully recover from the blow. The collision with Valdés was his first noteworthy action of the game, seeing how Chelsea hadn’t attacked at all beforehand.
Javier Mascherano – 7.5
Had yet another very good performance at center back, hardly losing any duel and making countless tackles/interceptions. He also contributed to the team’s attack, namely the final assault, although his shots couldn’t find the target.
Sergio Busquets – 7.5
Was one of the best players on the pitch, reading the game perfectly, intercepting several balls and distributing the ball quite flawlessly. Only missed some invention/creativity in his final ball, which could have been very useful today. He scored an unlikely (since he rarely ever scores), albeit extremely easy, goal as well.
Xavi Hernandez – 6.5
Completed more passes than the entire Chelsea team and orchestrated the game as usual, but he looks tired and unable to produce his very best in the big matches at the moment. He once again took no risks with his passing at all and couldn’t impose the high tempo the team needed to break the Chelsea bus.
Andrés Iniesta – 7
Not at his best either, but always dangerous whenever the ball got to him, especially in central positions. He scored the second goal and could have scored/assisted even more with a little bit of luck. His quick feet and dribbling skills were one of the main sources of concern for the Chelsea defense during the entire match.
Cesc Fabregas – 6.5
Was a bit anonymous, as has been the case lately, only showing up to do some excellent combination plays with Lionel Messi and very few great through passes, but never asserting his authority on the match.
Isaac Cuenca – 5.5
Was very easily dealt with by Chelsea’s fullbacks, namely Ashley Cole, who had studied him well and didn’t let him play his usual game. It’s almost impossible to remember even one occasion where Cuenca beat his market down the flank. He also missed a few half-chances to score.
Alexis Sanchez – 7
Ran a lot and got John Terry sent off, but his overall contribution on the pitch was still less than ideal, doing a lot more work off the ball (to create space or to get the ball back then Barca lose it) than on the ball. He was still one of the team’s best players.
Lionel Messi – 6
Assisted Iniesta, but had a match to forget otherwise. Nothing came out well for him; missed too many easy passes (and also the most difficult ones, of course), was dispossessed many times and even missed what would have been a crucial penalty goal early in the second half.
Daniel Alves – 6.5
Came in for Piqué very early in the match. He provided width and boundless energy down his flank as usual, but his final ball was terrible, namely his high crosses, which never met their target. That inability to send in good crosses made him not so dangerous in this match.
Seydou Keita – 6
Came in for Fabregas with about 20 minutes left but did very little in his time on the pitch, although he made the team a bit more threatening in the air.
Christian Tello – 6
Also had a poor cameo, showing poor ball control at times and inability to break down the Chelsea defense with merely pace.
These ratings have been written by Manuel Traquete. He is a lifelong FC Barcelona supporter and a freelance football writer who shares his thoughts @Manueltraquete
Image: Felice Calabro [AP]