Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Champions League Final: John Terry, Tragic Figure
Inconsolable John Terry may be the lasting image of the 2008 Champions League final won by Manchester United. Tears of pain and disappointment stained the Chelsea captain's face as the Blues walked off the pitch losers in penalty kicks to United. Never mind the injustice of settling the European championship in penalties, the injustice of Terry absorbing the weight of Chelsea's loss is the true crime here.
One only has to wonder whether Terry would have been put in that spot had irresponsible Didier Drogba not put his hands to the face of United defender Nemanja Vidic earning himself a red card with four minutes remaining in the second extra period. If this truly was Drogba's final game in Chelsea, it was a pitiful way to go; not only did his selfishness sour the final, but cost his team its best scorer and probably best penalty taker. Terry, the captain, the leader, stood in and had the championship at his feet only to ring the ball off the post to Edwin Van der Sar's right. What if Drogba had been available.
The drama of the penalty kicks was enormous, so many stories in such a short amount of time. What of Cristiano Ronaldo's inexcusable display on his try, United's third. Prancing and preening, Ronaldo stuttered his way to the ball, came to a complete stop and struck the ball firmly into the dive of Petr Cech. His was the first miss.
Then came a succession of near misses. Van der Sar could have atoned, getting a hand on Ashley Cole's try, but the ball found the netting. As did Nani's, but not after Cech got a fingertip to it.
Then came the unfortunate Terry, who had the Champions League title in his deserving grasp. Van der Sar guessed the wrong way, Terry hit it flush, the beleaguered turf betrayed him. His left foot, his plant foot slid as he landed at the ball, which soared too far right, too true to the post. Terry wept.
Anderson and Saloman Kalou traded relatively clean conversions, putting Ryan Giggs on the spot. Giggs' appearance put him past Sir Bobby Charlton on United's list of all-time appearances, and that guile served him well as he struck it true and into the corner. Nicolas Anelka had to score for Chelsea to continue on, but he could not as the ball and Van der Sar met to the right of middle.
And still John Terry wept.
Ronaldo too. How quickly the goat horns traded heads. Ronaldo knew he had been given a reprieve by the horrid Moscow pitch and Terry's ill-fated penalty. Ronaldo knew his charmed life had reared its head again. His dream season continues in a few weeks at the Euro, while Terry's nightmare begins again. He has no moment of redemption in Switzerland and Austria. Instead, he must live with this until August when the EPL reconvenes.
Manchester United may have won justly. Terry's pain is unjust.
More on Terry from The Scotsman, Times of London, The Independent and Setanta.