6 Things We Learned from Champions League Semi-Final: Chelsea Put to Sword

Phil KeidelContributor IIApril 30, 2014

6 Things We Learned from Champions League Semi-Final: Chelsea Put to Sword

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    Not much separated Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.
    Not much separated Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Viewers of Chelsea's second Champions League semi-final leg against Atletico Madrid were assured of at least one thing before the match began.

    Chelsea were never going to get punked the way Bayern Munich did by Real Madrid in the other semi-final.

    Right?

    Atletico had 90 minutes plus two periods of stoppage time to score against Chelsea in Madrid and failed. The odds against Atletico scoring even twice much less four times at Stamford Bridge were fairly remote.

    Especially after the defensive performance Jose Mourinho's side produced at Anfield in their last match without John Terry or Gary Cahill in their starting XI.

    Terry and Cahill returned to face Atletico, though goalkeeper Petr Cech's separated shoulder continued to sideline him.

    Would the return of two of their best defenders bring victory to Mourinho and Chelsea? Or would Atletico go to the Bridge and produce an all-Madrid Champions League final against conventional wisdom?

    Here are six takeaways from Chelsea 1-3 Atletico Madrid (Atletico Madrid win 3-1 on aggregate).

Fernando Torres Caught a Rare Break

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    Torres was probably due to get a bounce going his way.
    Torres was probably due to get a bounce going his way.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Chelsea opened the scoring with a fluky, fortunate goal from a player who has not seen many coin flips come up as he called them in recent seasons.

    Fernando Torres is a shadow of the player he was for Atletico Madrid and for Liverpool. The high price Chelsea paid to acquire him and his scattershot striking in the past few seasons have made him a target for significant and consistent derision.

    But the Stamford Bridge faithful were more than happy to sing his praises after Torres saw his 36th-minute strike take a very fortunate cannon off an Atletico defender and nestle into the bottom left corner of the Atletico goal.

    Torres did not celebrate the goal he scored against his former club. He did not really need to, though.

    The Chelsea supporters did plenty of that for him.

Chelsea's Bus Blew a Tire Before the Interval

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    Adrian quickly ended Chelsea's hopes of a quiet win.
    Adrian quickly ended Chelsea's hopes of a quiet win.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    From the moment that Demba Ba scored at Anfield against Liverpool last weekend, every Reds supporter knew that the second half and any stoppage time were likely to feel like slowly having their breath squeezed out of them by a boa constrictor.

    Atletico Madrid surely saw how Liverpool succumbed and vowed not to let it happen to them, even if they conceded first.

    So it was little surprise that Atletico ramped up their attack after going behind in the 36th minute. They knew that letting Jose Mourinho take a lead to the changing room was a blueprint for their own elimination from the competition.

    Adrian's goal in the 44th minute, borne of shocking and uncharacteristic defensive chaos in Chelsea's back line, was Atletico's statement that they would not be blunted so easily.

    And it proved that, no matter what he likes to say, Mourinho really cannot just go and win every match 1-0 if he wants to. 

Mourinho's Second-Half Tactics Betrayed Him with Blinding Speed

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    Here is a change Mourinho might like to have back.
    Here is a change Mourinho might like to have back.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho looked at the scoreboard in the 54th minute and sensed that his ticket to the Champions League final was about to be snatched from his grasp.

    The score was 1-1, but Atletico's goal at Stamford Bridge separated the sides on account of the away goals rule. Mourinho's side, not known for prolific scoring, now had to produce a goal to survive.

    So off came elite defender Ashley Cole and on came striker Samuel Eto'o.

    That is an awfully early change of that sort. Sides with elite striking talent (Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester City) generally trust their XI to do that work and bring the extra striker on for the defender in perhaps the 70th or 75th minute if the needed goal does not come.

    As if to underscore this point to the Special One, Eto'o fouled Diego Costa in the penalty area. After some pitch-related (and gamesmanship-related) standing around, Costa rifled the spot-kick into the roof of Chelsea's goal.

    Mourinho will probably refuse to answer most of the uncomfortable questions that are sure to be asked about that substitution.

Things Fall Apart

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    Turan (center) put the final nail in the Chelsea coffin.
    Turan (center) put the final nail in the Chelsea coffin.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Once Chelsea fell behind 1-2, with the away goals rule meaning the Blues needed to score twice to survive, another goal from one of the sides was nearly inevitable.

    Chelsea were left with no choice but to pour bodies forward and take chances. The loss margin was never going to matter to Chelsea or manager Jose Mourinho. The Blues had to risk losing by a big number in the hope of scoring the goal that would give them a punching chance to eventually win the match and the tie.

    As Chelsea quickly learned, though, opening up in the semi-final of the Champions League against a side with the quality of Atletico Madrid is nothing like opening up against, say, West Bromwich Albion in November.

    Arda Turan's goal, the third for Atletico, was a bit fortunate in that his initial header hit the woodwork behind Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and bounced right back to Turan's feet. Then again, he did hit the woodwork in the first place.

    That Turan was open for the header and then the subsequent tap-in highlighted the gaps that Mourinho's normally disciplined and resolute defenders had to leave in pursuit of a result that ultimately was not to be.

Chelsea Have to Buy a Striker This Summer

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    Ba is pretty ordinary if Steven Gerrard is not falling down in front of him.
    Ba is pretty ordinary if Steven Gerrard is not falling down in front of him.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    In 180 minutes plus stoppage time against Atletico Madrid, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea managed one goal.

    Yes, it came from a striker. But Fernando Torres' goal came from blind luck, a shot that was certainly going to be saved until it took a late deflection and trickled in behind a helpless Thibaut Courtois.

    Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o were pretty useless against Atletico at Stamford Bridge, and except for the happy bounce Torres saw go his way he was not exactly electric, either.

    Mourinho has proven that he can navigate the Premier League schedule effectively without a special striker. Chelsea are second in the league as of this writing and could well finish there.

    But Chelsea trail Liverpool in the league because Liverpool have Luis Suarez and former Chelsea man Daniel Sturridge. And they are out of the Champions League at least in part because their strikers do not scare any elite sides.

    Mourinho is out of reasons or excuses not to have a world-class striker to go with what is for the most part a world class side.

Maybe Chelsea Should Have Tried Harder to Score in Madrid

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    Mourinho's tactics in Madrid look less special now.
    Mourinho's tactics in Madrid look less special now.Associated Press

    Chelsea supporters raved over manager Jose Mourinho's brilliance after the Blues took the air out of the ball against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie.

    Leaving Spain with a goalless draw was exactly what Mourinho wanted, they all said. Mourinho would not admit it, but he probably was not too heartbroken over it, either.

    But that plan only works if you know you are going to complete the job at home.

    Mourinho's choice to play so passively in Madrid meant that even one Atletico goal at Stamford Bridge would compel his Blues to score twice. From what you have seen from Chelsea this season, was that really a given?

    In retrospect, banking on a 1-0 win or going through on penalties may not have been the best plan for the Special One.