There was nothing it in, Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea, built up through the use of surrounding storylines. There was nothing in it and that’s just the way Jose Mourinho would have liked it. The thing is, the manager in the other dugout, Diego Simeone, would have been more than pleased too.
The story will be told that at the Vicente Calderon, Chelsea prevented the home side from taking an advantage going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge. Oddly, Atletico saw plenty of the ball, 68 per cent possession, in a game generally unfamiliar to them.
What should be said is that Atletico do indeed go into the second leg with the advantage, because simply put, Chelsea can’t afford not to score, and by opening up and going for a winner, they leave themselves susceptible to Atletico’s counterattacking system. Atletico’s backline is intact. Chelsea will be without John Terry and Petr Cech, and not to mention the vital piece Nemanja Matic has proven to be in this defensive setup.
But that doesn’t excuse the game being a shocking affair to watch. We sort of have to look at the Champions League as a celebration of football, on a European scale, in the same way we do with the World Cup. And having a game like this at the semi-final stage with two teams boasting some of the best attackers in Europe is nothing short of woeful.
Fernando Torres was isolated and suffered from a few poor touches. Atletico, not known for attacking wizardry themselves, struggled to find opportunities for Koke and Diego Costa to effectively link up.
There may be argument to say this was a showcase of two excellent, modern tacticians on the game, but the product doesn’t really lend to much praise beyond a well done for getting what you wanted. Neither side is known for high scoring. There are exceptions – Chelsea’s 6-0 dismantling of Arsenal, and Atletico’s 4-1 win over Milan – but the experience both teams have built is in their defiance of some of Europe’s leading frontlines. They weren’t about to abandon those stern qualities on an occasion like this.
It’s a tie in which both sides cancel each other out. Similar systems, hard working midfields and the ability of a back line to not so much frustrate but infuriate an opposition attack.
What should be said ahead of next week’s second leg is that going down without a fight is simply not Simeone’s way. The failure of PSG to take their chances in the last round at Stamford Bridge won’t be repeated by Spain’s league leaders.
Atletico may have been unable to convert any of their chances on Tuesday night – only four of their 25 chances were on target – but the whole game felt like a chess match, each side gaining an understanding of what they were dealing with. The return leg should be different.