Champions’ League semi-final: Amazing Monaco 3 – Shameful Chelsea 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
April 20th, 2004 • 11:48 am

Once again, Monaco have achieved the unbelievable. The first half of the game was probably as expected, with a fairly balanced match and a balanced score (1-1), although Monaco were somewhat guilty of not protecting their lead more carefully.

The drama was in the second half, and it all started with the red card against Monaco player Zikos for an supposedly nasty gesture against Chelsea’s Claude Makelele. However, the theatricality of the Chelsea player’s reaction was immediately obvious, and the replay confirmed that Makelele was shamefully guilty of grossly exaggerating his “injury”. In spite of Marcel Desailly’s applause, the referee was obviously conned, and the game was spoiled. Or was it?

The rest of the second half was simply unbelievable. Instead of taking advantage of their numerical advantage and of their supposedly limitless array of (expensive) talent, Chelsea appeared utterly unable to create anything, and Monaco showed an incredible level of courage, resilience, and positivity. They completely dominated the half, and fully deserved to take the lead through a fantastic volley by Morientes. (In the mean time, Ranieri had brought on Hasselbaink instead of a midfielder, with no effect whatsoever.)

Then Didier Deschamps shrewdly put on another attacker (Nonda) in place of the midfielder, captain, and essential playmaker Giuly. And within a minute of play, Nonda scored with his first touch of the game! It was simply amazing.

Only in the 88th minute did Deschamps use his final substitution and finally replaced the attacking midfielder Rothen with a more defensive player. But even then, Monaco still looked the team more likely to score another one!

It didn’t happen, and the game finished 3-1. At 1-1 with Monaco down to 10 men, you wouldn’t have given them much of a chance. Even at 2-1, it still looked rather iffy, with Chelsea only needing to score one at home and protect their lead. But at 3-1, it now looks rather likely that Monaco will reach the final! After all, Chelsea will need to score twice, and therefore expose themselves in the back — and they’ll miss Makelele as a defensive midfielder, since he also got a yellow card in the red card incident and was already on a yellow card before the beginning of the game.

So kudos to Monaco for turning what would have been a highly disappointing and unfair game on its head and making up for Chelsea’s shameful behaviour and the poor refereeing with fantastic spirit and creativity.

The key issue here, however, is that something like Makelele’s behaviour simply should not be allowed. It reminded me of that absolutely shameful piece of theatrics by Brazilian Rivaldo in the World Cup in 2002. The ball hit him on the knee, and he faked a head injury! And he got away with a $5,000 fine or something like that. This, to me, is simply unacceptable, because his behaviour completely spoiled the rest of the game and the tournament, and there was no way that any neutral spectactor could root for a Brazilian team that had conned its way into the final.

Why isn’t this sort of action punished more severely? The rule is that, if the referee saw the incident and made a decision, then further reviews by video panels won’t happen. But clearly that rule is wrong here. The referee was conned, and there is absolutely no doubt about it. Makelele can pretend all he wants, no one is going to believe him. He even went as far as to continue to fake a head injury several minutes after the incident took place! No wonder he was booed for the rest of the game. It was fully deserved.

Thank God the better team still managed to win and now have a good chance of qualifying. But that won’t stop me from saying that something is wrong when a piece of theatrics by a player can completely ruin a game and, indeed, the entire tournament. That’s what happened in 2002 during the World Cup. It could still happen here, if Monaco lose at Stamford Bridge by more than two goals or by two goals without scoring.

Clearly all the money in the world won’t buy you honest players and team spirit — but the actions of overpaid and overrated players such as Makelele need to be exposed when they deserve to be so. And the fact that he’s French and might play for France in Euro 2004 won’t prevent me from saying so. I have lost all respect for this player, and nothing he can do for his club or country will redeem him. As far as I am concerned, he’s just irreparably tarnished his entire career as a football player and might as well retire now.

Speaking of overpaid, overrated players, there should be a few players in the Chelsea luxury jet flying back to London with their ears buzzing right now. What excuse is there for their second-half performance? Right now, Ranieri looks like the only likable person left at Chelsea (even though he’s taking the blame for his team’s failure), and obviously he will be doing the right thing by leaving sooner rather than later, even if his fate is supposed to have been sealed long ago

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