It’s way too easy to be critical and judgmental about every little thing in a soccer match, so I have compiled a list of 15 things that I found fun, extremely positive or interesting after watching Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany.
Here we go...
Soccer fans have a reputation of getting drunk and sometimes fighting, but it seems this past weekend’s UEFA Champions League final went off without a hitch.
Big respect to both Munich and Germany for putting it all together and creating an environment where the match could be the focus and where fans from both teams could get along.
It’s worth noting that a recent report revealed police in Germany fired just 85 bullets at or in the direction of criminal suspects in 2011.
But don’t take it from me. Here’s what Fox Soccer analyst and commentator Eric Wynalda tweeted on May 17 after arriving in Munich:
Every time I come to Germany I am reminded that they just have a better way of doing things.
Chelsea were well represented in Munich on Saturday, as tens of thousands made the trip to Germany for the big game.
As the above photo shows, they also brought a big banner to show their love for their Blues. Probably not a good thing to have a seat under that behemoth to try to see what was going on in the Allianz Arena after it was unfurled.
There was very little controversy and no bad calls that I saw in the match. The referees got all the offside calls and yellow cards right and did a great job controlling the players on both sides.
What would have been Bayern Munich’s first goal, a Franck Ribery score, was quickly ruled offside (and it was), while Didier Drogba’s step on Ribery’s foot in the box was correctly called a penalty kick.
We need to remember that officials don’t have the luxury of watching the replays in slow-motion like fans do at home on their televisions.
Fabulous job to head referee Pedro Proença (Portugal); assistant referees Bertino Miranda (Portugal) and Ricardo Santos (Portugal); the fourth official Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain); and the additional assistant referees Manuel De Sousa (Portugal) and Duarte Gomes (Portugal).
Well done, guys. Apparently they know proper pitch justice on the Iberian Peninsula.
It sometimes seems not much is happening in soccer matches to the novice viewer, but it does seem an awful lot happens in the last 10 minutes, injury time, overtime and shootouts in the bigger competitions.
Some of the craziest endings that stick out in my mind: Landon Donovan's 91st-minute goal for the United States versus Algeria in the 2010 World Cup; the Uruguay-Ghana ending in the same competition; the epic Manchester City-QPR ending two weekends ago to give the Sky Blues the English Premier League championship; and, of course, Chelsea’s late-game heroics and 4-3 shootout win over Bayern Munich on Saturday.
In soccer, it really ain’t over until it’s over.
That’s all. Nothing big.
So if you need the big goal in the big game, No. 11 is your man. But you might have to pay him some really big bucks before he heads east and teams up again with his old buddy Nicolas Anelka in China.
At least that’s what the press is saying. And I imagine it might be hard to pass up £270,000 a week to simply play a game.
With defenders John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic suspended, Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo had to be creative with his roster, but starting Ryan Bertrand, normally a left-back, in the midfield?
The Blues' understudy to Ashley Cole, Bertrand played in front of Cole in the midfield and did an admirable job containing the Der FCB attack.
In the process, Bertrand became the first player in history to make his UEFA Champions League debut in the final.
I’ll simply let the picture do the talking. As you can see, even Drogba got a kick out of it.
No word on who won the after-match Blues Hair-off between David Luiz and Kalou.
I would have sped down to the LVH SuperBook here in Las Vegas and thrown $50 on the under 2.5 goals.
Lock city, baby.
Maybe not such a fun takeaway, but I think more should have been made out of the home team’s disorganized approach in the shootout.
Chelsea had its five best players shooting when it mattered most, but Bayern had a choppy approach (without Ribery and Arjen Robben) and it showed when the third shooter was goalie Manuel Neuer (although he scored), who had to be prompted to the spot by the referees.
Bayern’s fourth shooter, Ivica Olić, had a weak attempt and its last shooter, Bastian Schweinsteiger, was completely gassed before his crucial attempt.
In this case, the manager has to be at fault.
Just ask Chelsea in 2008 or Real Madrid in this year’s UEFA Champions League semifinals or Bayern Munich about the shootout.
What I detest about it most is that there are no defenders (outside the goalkeeper) on the pitch and the beautiful game and its 11-versus-11 beauty is reduced to a one-on-one battle and in the end, one team wins and one loses because of this quirk.
And although Chelsea won in this manner (I’m a Blues fan) on Saturday, I have always hated this in the Champions League and the World Cup. Let them play until someone scores that golden goal.
And in this respect, soccer could learn a little something from the NHL, where they play, as tired as they may be, until someone scores that winning goal with players playing defense on the ice.
You see it in all other sports, but soccer players take the cake when it comes to the dog pile celebration.
And damn, did Chelsea do it right Saturday in Munich.
Surprised Drogba didn’t emerge flat as a pancake after all that humanity squishing him on the bottom.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has had a massive presence since buying and has done his share of spending to get this European championship, but I have never seen the Russian oil billionaire interacting with management or the players until Drogba handed him the silverware Saturday.
Despite all his material wealth and accomplishments in business, that had to be the greatest moment of his life.
That is all.
This is quirky and meaningless to anyone but Chelsea fans, but the Blues were founded in 1905 and they won their first UEFA Champions League title on the 19th day of the fifth month.
Simple synchronicity, but obvious proof that God is a Chelsea fan.
Honestly, I have never seen a cooler-looking stadium in all sports. Period.
Now the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium and the Olympic swimming venue dubbed the Water Cube in Beijing from the 2008 Olympic Games both come pretty damn close, but I would have to say that this may be the best-looking building in the world.
So move over, Taj Mahal.
Serious props to its designers and creators. If aliens visited Earth and landed in Munich and saw that bad boy all lit up, they would have the utmost respect for our planet’s homo sapien inhabitants.
Once again, the UEFA Champions League, the competition with the coolest theme song in sports lived up to all the hype.
What looked like a Barcelona-Real Madrid final ended up being a meeting between the second-place side in the Bundesliga and the sixth-place side from the EPL.
And of course, the sixth-place club won in the end.
Hope you enjoyed it all and next year promises to be even better with clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester City and Manchester United likely to have something to say about who the European champion will be.
And I promise you, it will be here before you know it.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11