Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

David Healy: Drogba let Chelsea down, in every sense

It's the dream final. One that has me licking my lips. Barcelona v Manchester United has a mouthwatering ring to it though don’t mention that to Chelsea and Arsenal fans.

I’ll get to Chelsea and all that went on at the Bridge in a moment, but first what about that match at the Emirates between Arsenal and United?

I genuinely thought it would be a close affair but United had the tie won within 11 minutes! It was so easy for Sir Alex Ferguson that he could afford to take off Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra to stop them getting booked and miss the final.

Darren Fletcher wasn’t so lucky. He was desperately unfortunate to be sent off and get suspended for Rome. Once again he was part of a scintillating United display.

When they play like that, with Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo on top form, they are magnificent though I have to add I was really disappointed with Arsenal as they didn’t put up a fight.

There was much more passion the night after at Stamford Bridge, where there was an astonishing finish.

When Iniesta fired in that fantastic equaliser to send Barcelona through to the final on away goals, I felt for Chelsea, especially great servants of the club like John Terry and Frank Lampard, but my sympathy decreased when I witnessed the antics of Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack.

Of course football means everything to players and supporters especially when so much is at stake, but Ballack running after the referee when a penalty appeal had been turned down and Drogba having a go at the official after the game and then shouting towards the TV camera did Chelsea no favours whatsoever.

It’s that sort of stuff that has made neutrals dislike Chelsea. I praised them to high heaven last week for their superb, professional performance in the Nou Camp, but the behaviour of some of their players on Wednesday, especially Drogba, left a real sour taste.

Guus Hiddink was as frustrated as anyone but, unlike his star striker, he managed to keep calm and still make his point about the refereeing decisions.

Regarding the penalty claims, I thought the one when Pique handled was a definite spot-kick. Otherwise for me had the ref given a penalty for the first appeal when Florent Malouda clashed with Daniel Alves he would have been wrong.

I felt it was actually a soft free-kick award. As for the second one, when Drogba went down sadly his reputation probably went before him while the last one when Ballack’s shot hit a Barca arm, that was touch and go.

Sure, Chelsea were upset because they so wanted to reach the final, but you can’t do what Drogba did and say what he said.

I reckon he was probably as frustrated with his own performance as much as that of the ref. Remember in the Nou Camp, he had a good chance to score a vital away goal and on Wednesday he had a great chance to finish the tie and didn’t take either.

Great player that he is, he let himself down.

With all that going on, it was easy to forget that Barcelona played the last 25 minutes with 10 men. You would not have known.

They kept playing their superb passing game and were rewarded in the end even though Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi had really quiet games.

Messi has never done it against English teams but he’ll have a chance to change that in a best player on the planet shoot-out with Ronaldo in Rome.

That final is going to be something else.

Yes, I’m definitely going to Italy

There has been lots written about which Northern Ireland players will turn up for our friendly in Italy next month.

I want to put on record here and now that my intention is to be part of the squad for the match in Pisa. If I’m fit and healthy I’ll be there.

I know that several of the senior players have already stated they won’t be travelling and I understand all have good reasons for missing the trip, but from my own point of view I hate missing any match for my country and certainly I want to take on the World champions.

I love testing myself against the best and we’ll get that in Italy.

We are playing the game for a worthy cause, with gate receipts going to those affected by the earthquake in Italy earlier this year. It will be a honour to do my bit for them.

With some senior players out, it will give Nigel Worthington a chance to assess younger lads in a big game environment which should help us in the future.

Maybe we’ll do what Mark Allen did in the snooker at the Crucible lately and beat a world champion. I was really impressed by Mark’s performance in reaching the World Championship semi-finals, especially with that win over Ronnie O’Sullivan. He did Northern Ireland proud.

Glens deserve their glory

Congratulations to Glentoran. Alan McDonald’s (pictured) men did the business last weekend and it’s only right I acknowledge their title success.

They deserved it, no question about it with the way they finished the season.

Linfield will feel they threw it away and, as I wrote last week, Michael Halliday’s late equaliser in the Big Two derby was the defining moment of the season.

It was a cracking race all the way to the end and when the pressure on, the Glens held their nerve.

So, well done to Big Mac and his players and all the Glens fans, including those who sent me texts after their success.

It’s always nice to hear from David Currie and Derek McKinley at the IFA.

My hope, and I’m sure it will happen, is that Linfield will bounce back next summer, but it will be Glentoran supporters enjoying the summer.

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