Chelsea have lots to be blue about

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Whatever sympathy one could have felt for Chelsea dissipated watching the actions of Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba at the end of this week's Champions League semifinal.

That Chelsea should have beaten Barcelona is a given.

Regardless of anyone's feeling about the style of soccer Chelsea played over the two legs, the Blues managed to hold one of the most dangerous attacking teams in all of soccer to no goals over 180 minutes. In the second leg Chelsea even managed to score a goal and create enough chances in which they should have had a second or third.

But they didn't convert on those opportunities.

It was the three minutes of injury time that finished Chelsea with a 1-1 draw. Andres Iniesta struck a stunning 20-yard winner when it appeared that for the second year in a row, it would be an all-English Champions League final involving Chelsea and Manchester United.

Instead, Chelsea was left pondering another in what's been a long list of Champions League disasters.

The super villain in all this, at least in the eyes of Chelsea supporters and players, is Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

Ovrebo waved off four contested penalties Chelsea felt were all warranted.

At least two, were indeed penalties.

But Ovrebo also sent off Barcelona player Eric Abidal with a straight red card, a decision that many believed was too harsh.

To say Ovrebo had a bad day would be kind.

But at the end of the match, Ovrebo had to endure a tantrum of most unprofessional proportions by Drogba. The Chelsea striker had been substituted, but at the end of the match, he ran onto the pitch in flip-flops, screaming at Ovrebo. He was last seen shouting into the camera that it was an "(expletive deleted) disgrace." Drogba obviously lost his mind.

Late in the game after another controversial non-call, Ovrebo was chased down the pitch by a screaming Ballack. It was the most spectacular thing Ballack has done all of the Champions League tournament and probably the quickest he's moved. If he had played the kind of football he's being paid to play, perhaps Chelsea wouldn't have been in a life and death situation at the end of the match.

And other than his immature display at the end of the match, Drogba must accept his own responsibility in the last minute defeat. He had several opportunities to score a second goal to put the match out of reach but failed.

Speaking of life and death, after the game Ovrebo was moved to a different hotel and police were investigating death threats made on the Internet.

Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink was rightly mystified about the referee's performance but even he, in the recesses of his mind, recognized that Chelsea threw away an opportunity to advance.

"We could have and should have scored more," Hiddink said. "Then we can talk about the penalties not given."

A team that loses a monstrous match in such stunning fashion always looks to a reason other than its own inadequacies or simple bad luck.

With the final whistle, conspiracy theorists were at work. While Ovrebo was the man caught holding the smoking gun, everyone is looking for the second shooter. In this case, it had to be UEFA because of their terror at yet another all-England final.

There can be no doubt outside of England, a Manchester United-Barcelona final was the most attractive final possible. There can be no doubt that there was a silent cheer throughout Europe when Iniesta potted the tying goal.

But there was no conspiracy involved. Poor finishing, bad luck and Barcelona's own professional quality in refusing to quit led to Chelsea's demise.


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