Much like the first leg, last night's Champions League semi-final second leg at Camp Nou featured a persistent attacking threat from Barcelona largely nullified by a stupendous defensive performance from Chelsea, as shown bythe StatsZone app Ã¢ÂÂ from FFT & Opta, available now...
The player influence and average position diagrams for the second half of Tuesday evening's match are particularly telling Ã¢ÂÂ every Chelsea player was firmly entrenched deep in their own half, with every Barcelona man camped in opposition territory.
Having spent so much time pinned back in their own half, itÃ¢ÂÂs no surprise that Chelsea had a lot of work to do repelling the ball from their own penalty area.
The Chelsea Ã¢ÂÂwallÃ¢ÂÂ made a combined 17 tackles, 24 interceptions and 59 clearances, but only conceded ten fouls for their trouble. This was all despite losing Gary Cahill to an early hamstring injury and John Terry to his own stupidity within 37 minutes.
Given the nature of the match, it comes as no surprise to see Barca dominating the passing statistics Ã¢ÂÂ but the degree to which they did so is still quite staggering.
In completing 161 passes, Xavi outdid all 14 of the visiting players to take to the pitch combined by 66.
In all, ten Barcelona players completed more passes than ChelseaÃ¢ÂÂs top passer, Raul Meireles (15). The eleven players to complete the most passes in or into the offensive third of the pitch were all Barcelona players.
In fact, the Chelsea player to complete the most passes in or into the final third was goalkeeper Petr Cech, who found a man in a white Chelsea change strip six times.
This was six times more than Barca keeper Victor Valdes, mind you. The Catalan custodian unsurprisingly preferred to knock the ball short, rather than plant one on little LeoÃ¢ÂÂs head from 70 yards.
This difference in approach summed up the two differing styles of play adopted by the two teams over the two legs. Barcelona persisted with their trademark patient short-passing game, while Chelsea loaked to soak up the pressure and get the ball forward as quickly and directly as possible in order to catch the European champions on the break. The simple fact Chelsea are in the final tells you which was the more effective tactic over the 180 minutes.
While none of the above came as much of a surprise, the fact Lionel Messi was unable to put Chelsea to the sword certainly did.
The two-times Balon d'Or winner completed just 74% of his passes - and only 69% of his passes in the attacking third - and was generally unsuccesful in his attempts to dribble past opposition players, succeeding just three times from nine attempts.
These stats certainly don't compare favourably to those from his last match against an English club at Camp Nou, the 3-1 victory over Arsenal of March 2011. On that night he was successful in nearly all of his dribble attempts and had a higher pass completion percentage in the final third (76%), though that was from fewer attempted passes.
He did, however, successfully complete more tackles than any other player on the pitch. Which is something to cling to, at least.
The Argentinean wasnÃ¢ÂÂt the only pint-sized magician who was quieter than usual. ChelseaÃ¢ÂÂs Juan Mata struggled to make much impact over the two ties, although that is perhaps forgivable given his side enjoyed so little possession. He completed just 17 passes over the two matches.
As a team, Barcelona were perhaps a little profligate. Although Chelsea did superbly to nullify them for large swathes of the match, the soon to be former Spanish champions still managed 23 shots at goal. Of those, ten were off-target, eight of which were from inside the penalty area.
Chelsea, meanwhile, made the most of the few openings they were able to carve Ã¢ÂÂ scoring three goals from the 11 chances they created over the two legs.
Stats Zone is a free-download app from FourFourTwo powered by stats from Opta, updated LIVE during the game, covering Champions League and Premier League Ã¢ÂÂ and, coming soon, Euro 2012.
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