The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
While the rest of the world will be talking about the ongoing unplanned bridge collapse that is Liverpool’s 2007 season and the slightly unexpected emergence of Rosenborg as a legitimate European power, Chelsea and Schalke 04 deserve a word for turning in a perfectly watchable Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge this afternoon. The bizarre highlight of the match was Florent Malouda sending a flimsy shot directly at Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer only to see it roll through all four of Neuer’s limbs into the net. It was a goal the way Jude Law is a sex symbol—weakly, and with an air of going against its own nature. But it was enough to beat Schalke, who worked hard and played brightly but never looked much like challenging even before Drogba proved his unswerving commitment to Chelsea by scoring with one of his tower-of-strength headers in the second half.
It was the first win at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s Avram Grant, and I guess by the same standard of judgment-by-short-term-memory that has people writing off Gerrard as overrated (wait, remind me who was calling him the best midfielder of his generation six weeks ago?) we’re now going to hear that Grant is “proving himself” and “deserves his chance”. Maybe. But we’ll have to wait and see whether the flair-starved Roman Abramovich will be sufficiently titillated by Chelsea’s style of play, which, to go by this game, seems to involve endless short passes between the midfield and the back four followed by Joe Cole doing a couple of Riverdance moves that sputter out in a futile corner. Grant keeps promising a disco, but somehow he keeps delivering a dirge.
It can’t be easy to be Schalke 04—you’re constantly being outscored by your own name!—and the two most exciting moments of this match came when things that almost went right for them just barely managed to go wrong. In the 28th minute Carlos Javier Grossmüller had an outstanding goal called back when, flicking the ball over his own body while spinning around in the penalty box, he was judged to be an angel’s breath offside. More controversially, Søren Larsen (a player who oddly seems to comb every part of his body but his hair) was hauled back by Alex in the 84th minute to prevent what could have been a consolation goal. It should have been a red card for Alex, but the referee, Peter Fröjdfeldt, Fröjdfelt differently, and it wasn’t.
Joe Cole had a lively match before being taken off for the ghost of Andriy Shevchenko two minutes before time.
by Brian Phillips · October 24, 2007