Bridge Banter: Reverse tactics catch Chelsea cold
Chelsea shut up shop at the Nou Camp and, against the run of play, hit Barcelona with two goals on the break.
Turns out it wasn’t just Blues fans that have studied the DVD. Newcastle’s shrewd manager Alan Pardew watched it too, and turned the tables on the Champions League finalists on Wednesday night using identical tactics.
For most of the match, the Magpies absorbed Chelsea’s attacks, eventually wearing their assailants out.
Meanwhile, two breaks – one first-half, one second – let striker Papiss Cisse conjure up goals of real class.
“The vultures from other clubs are already circling to snap him up in the summer,” moaned the man from BBC Newcastle, sitting next to me in the Stamford Bridge press box.
Roberto Di Matteo’s first home defeat as caretaker comes ahead of Saturday evening’s FA Cup final against Liverpool, Tuesday night’s expedition to Anfield to play the Scousers again, the relegation decider against Blackburn, and the European final in Munich.
By resting Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Juan Mata, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou for Wembley, Di Matteo mirrored Kenny Dalglish’s tactics the night before, when Fulham recorded their first victory at Anfield. The last time Newcastle had savoured victory at Chelsea was before Ramires was born.
Belatedly, Di Matteo brought on his subs to try to find the missing spark, but the boggy, saturated pitch began to take its toll on tired legs, and the breakthrough never came.
It isn’t often the fourth official raises his board to indicate 10 minutes of stoppage time (Cheick Tiote had been stretchered off), but it only added to the Blues’ exhaustion, and allowed Cisse to volley a second unbeatable dipping shot past Petr Cech.
Di Matteo will lift his troops for Wembley and Munich, and could yet get his hands on both trophies. But as Alan Pardew proved on Wednesday, if your own tactics are employed against you, it can sometimes be extremely effective.