Chelsea Club Focus - Benfica beaten but Blues still haunted by lack of confidence
The flags were being delicately placed by every seat inside Stamford Bridge ahead of what was to be Chelsea’s biggest game of the season. This was it, boom or bust, Champions League semi-finals or only one chance of a trophy left this season.
Even though the West Londoners had a 1-0 lead and an away goal against Benfica you got the feel from Chelsea message boards that fans were not confident of progressing. It is a bitter taste that has been left in the mouth ever since Andre Villas-Boas’s disastrous reign came to an end.
Chelsea FC Blog summed up the mind set of Chelsea fans since that departure; “It seems that whoever takes over will inherit a team low on confidence and/or experience with success. Clearly it won't be up to them to rebuild the team, that’s for the high minded fellows sitting in the prime seats.”
This was a huge game in West London, not only a money spinner for the club but it would mean setting up a mouth watering tie with reigning European champions Barcelona.
Things started well. Chelsea were awarded an early penalty and when Frank Lampard slotted home it seemed all was well, a feeling that was enhanced when the Portuguese side were reduced to 10 men. But Benfica were knocking it around nicely and even with the Blues holding a 2-0 lead you could feel a lack of confidence in the crowd, a feeling that only got worse at the visitors continued to create chances. And suddenly with five minutes to go a chance was taken and Chelsea were rocking. Groans were to be heard as Benfica surged forward but the hosts managed to hang on, by the skin of their teeth to reach the semi-finals.
Despite the win, some Chelsea fans just aren’t happy. You can be forgiven for thinking that being 1-0 on the night at home and 2-0 up on aggregate that you would be safe, but there was not that feeling of security that the Blues had under Jose Mourinho.
And all you have to do is to flick through Chelsea message boards to see that there is a serious lack of belief and confidence that the West Londoners can compete against the mite of Barcelona. Comments from the Shed End forum include; “Call me a bitter pessimist, but I'm counting on a loss.” And; “The way they just beat (AC) Milan at the Nou Camp does not bode well for CFC reaching Munich - not only can they keep the ball but they tackle & win it back superbly, only a massive injury crisis in their camp could possibly derail them making the final.”
Years ago this would not have been the sentiment of Chelsea fans, they would have believed with every ounce of their bodies that their side could beat Barcelona and make the final. And it is this anxiety that transfers quickly from message boards to the stands.
One can’t help but feel for the players as they hear the groans when hanging on in a football match and if message boards are anything to go by, Chelsea will need a miracle to overcome the Spanish giants.
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