The Better Soccer Team

Bayern Munich lost the 2011-12 Champions League final on penalties to Chelsea.

Once again, Chelsea walked away with a win at the highest level of club soccer while the other team was the one who took the ceremonial title of 'better.'  Yes, Chelsea was out shot, out possessed, and out opportuned (not a word, but you know what we mean) by Bayern Munich, a continuation on a theme from their series with mighty Barcelona.  Yet it was Chelsea taking that oddly long walk to what passes for a tribune at Allianz Arena as winners. 

Chelsea aren't the first team to win while the commentators and pundits praise the losers.  They're not the first team to get a result with an overly defensive strategy that the nominally 'better' team simply couldn't break down.  What's at work when this happens is what we really mean by 'better.' 

Bayern looked better for most of the initial 90 minutes against Chelsea.  In the highlight clip world of soccer, they looked like a team that should have had no trouble scoring multiple goals.  Instead, their single goal came late and they had relatively few answers once they scored.  Instead, faced with several problems, they ended up on the back foot as the game continued to penalties.  It was that penalty phase that really told the story.  Once again, Bayern thought they'd done enough.  They hadn't, and that ended up being the story. 

Nothing really new here in the big picture sense.  It's just another example of how one club appears to be doing everything right for large stretches of a game only for the other club to win.  What makes it so pronounced in the current environment of world soccer is the insistence that the 'better' club is also the 'wronged' club.  That's coming from commentators and pundits, not just fans.  Those watching Saturday's game in the US got to hear about fate, destiny, the mercurial alignment of unknowable things pushing to Chelsea winning a shiny trophy.  All of that is another way of saying that the better team got to take that lengthy walk up multiple staircases first.  What's lost is the idea that 'better' might not mean controlling a game they weren't winning.

Corner Rating: (with 1 sticking to playing up this idea of the better team and 11 realizing that in contemporary soccer controlling the game without scoring enough goals to win it doesn't make a team better) 3.

Last Week's Corner: So does anybody have Bolton, Blackburn, and Wolverhampton out of the automatic promotion slots?  Since last week's corner, Bolton has had an expected clear out, but they still have Stuart Holden and Tim Ream in the squad.  That certainly isn't going to lower our 10 from last week, and we'll go ahead and make that a 10.5. 

Two Weeks Ago Corner: That's when we talked about a reshuffling of the top leagues in Europe.  We're going to go ahead and push our 9.5 up to a 10.

6 Responses to The Better Soccer Team

  1. Puxa Sporting says:

    While the term “(the) better (team on the day)” is as undefinable as “What league in Europe is the best,” one would have to be a blind, prize fighting judge not to see that Bayern was the better team of the day.

    If it was not for Bayern, there would have been no game as Chelsea did not come to the pitch with an offensive game plan, at least not one that was executed to any degree of success (for the vast majority of the match). If Bayern matched Chelsea, the game would have been 22 men with two groups of 11 standing in their own halves.

    “What’s lost is the idea that ‘better’ might not mean controlling a game they weren’t winning.” If you are trying to say that Chelsea was the “better” team, then I would try to insinuate that you should take off the Chelsea/EPL scarf before you step into the press booth.

    I saw nothing contemporary in the game. I saw what has happened a million times: a match in which the clearly “better” team lost, and know what? Oh freaking well!

  2. Eric says:

    I agree actually (with the original article, not the comment). It’s ridiculous to think that had Bayern shown up in a shell that Chelsea would have simply stayed in theirs. What Chelsea showed was that Bayern didn’t have enough ability to execute their plan. You’re right, we’ve seen that happen a million times, but it’s always something to see it at this level.

  3. While I agree that Bayern was the better team, those aficianados with a knowledge of soccer, recognize that Didier Drogba may well be the coolest cucumber in the cucumber patch. He scores and scores again when the game is on the line. His header in the 88th was all that and more.
    While Arjen Robben was not whining and squirming on the pitch the entire game, and he actually played the game sans injury was a miracle in itself.
    Peter Czech (sp)was as resolute a keeper and as good a player as almost anyone on the pitch. He would be hard pressed to beat as MVP, but David Gomez(too lazy to look it up), Chelsea’s sweeper was the real star. He was the only Chelsea player to win balls in midfield and shut down Bayern’s relentless attack without resorting to red card tactics. I would suggest he is the real star of this game.
    If you are as patient as it might be necessary to win a game of this nature (and the Germans should be excellent at it, since their normal adage is to play to get by, not win, then they will understand this better than anyone, you can watch a good team wrack its collective brain trying to score, only to have the game rug taken out from under them with superlative play from the oppositions sweeper, keeper and striker. Please review the game in its entirety.

  4. you can watch a good team wrack its collective brain trying to score, only to have the game rug taken out from under them with superlative play from the oppositions sweeper, keeper and striker.

    Nicely put.

  5. Puxa Sporting says:

    you can watch a good team wrack its collective brain trying to score, only to have the game rug taken out from under them with superlative play from the oppositions sweeper, keeper and striker.

    Nicely put.

    Yes, great stuff, but I also like the Ray Hudson-like: Didier Drogba may well be the coolest cucumber in the cucumber patch. (Pickle jar as opposed to cucumber patch would have been perfect!) But, your right, great stuff from Sir Jack.

  6. Bayern clearly dominated possession all game long, and pretty much everything else on the stat sheet. Bayern really had no clue what they were doing in the final third and lacked creativity for most of the night. The few times they tried something new and creative, the shots just didn’t make it into the net. For their 35 shots (to 9 for Chelsea), only 7 were on target (3 for Chelsea) and only two of those resulted in a save. Sadly they took little advantage of all their set pieces, with terrible service on most of the free kicks and their 20 corners. Robben was about as predictable as ever: Run down the wing, ignore the overlap so he can cut in on the left foot (he’s an inverted winger afterall!!! /sarcasm).

    Chelsea, once again, was on the lucky end of a poorly taken penalty kick (Robben’s this time). There was no superior game plan on Chelsea’s part. It was simply your typical bunker and counter strategy featuring a ton of fouls to stop anything resembling a scoring opportunity. Chelsea played the cynical side for most of the game and just hoped like hell things fell their way. And on this day it did…again.