Chelsea comeback downs Barca
Ten-man Chelsea produced one of European football’s greatest-ever comebacks to reach the Champions League final after a 2-2 draw in Barcelona.
Roberto Di Matteo’s men stunned the Camp Nou as they fought back from two goals down and the dismissal of John Terry to go through 3-2 on aggregate with goals in stoppage time of both halves.
Defending a one-goal advantage from the first leg it looked as if it could be a long night for the Londoners as Barca got into their stride straight from the kick-off, and Chelsea suffered a blow on 12 minutes when they lost centre-back Gary Cahill with a hamstring injury. Pep Guardiola’s men then saw their own central defender Gerard Pique taken off after 26 minutes when he collided with his own goalkeeper Victor Valdes to be replaced by Dani Alves.
Yet the Catalans finally achieved the breakthrough on 35 minutes, youngster Isaac Cuenca pulling the ball back for Sergio Busquets to slot home, and it got even worse for the visitors four minutes later when Terry foolishly kneed Alexis Sanchez in the back in an off-the-ball incident to leave his team with 10 men.
Andres Iniesta then added to the hosts’ lead two minutes before the break, firing home after Lionel Messi had played him in, and Chelsea’s dream of a Munich final on May 19 appeared over. However, Ramires gave them hope and put them back on course with a goal on the stroke of half-time, executing a delightful chip over Valdes after collecting Frank Lampard’s superb pass.
Three minutes after the restart Barca had a great opportunity to re-take the lead in the tie when Didier Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas in the box, but Messi saw his resultant spot-kick crash against the bar, the eighth game in which he has failed to score against the Blues.
After that the home side laid siege to the Chelsea goal without ever really being able to penetrate a stubborn rearguard, although Messi again hit the woodwork when his shot came back off a post, and an unbelievable night was complete when Fernando Torres came off the bench and ran half the length of the pitch to round Valdes and walk the ball into an empty net in time added on.
Reaching their second final did come at a huge cost for Chelsea, with Terry's red card and yellows for Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles ruling them out of the game against either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, although boss Di Matteo will worry about that nearer the time.
“Tonight was about a great collective defensive performance,” said the Italian. “It wasn't just our defenders because we needed to be able to close down the spaces as much as possible and limit Barcelona's threat. Ultimately, with the quality of some of their individuals, they still create problems.
“Sometimes it feels as if they have 20 players. They play like that against Real Madrid, against Milan, too. But we were prepared to be patient in defence and not get frustrated. We looked very organised and the boys were really determined not to let them through.”
Barca boss Guardiola was left lamenting the fact his side did not do enough to progress and at times seemed to run out of ideas.
“We did everything we could and it hurts, although we have to accept it and move on,” he commented. “We have never done as much in any semi-final but it was not enough and that is what counts. If we did anything badly we will have to try and correct it.”
Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
Scorers: Busquets 35, Iniesta 43 (BAR), Ramires 45+1, Torres 90+2 (CHE)
Barcelona: Valdes; Puyol, Pique (Alves 26), Mascherano; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas (Keita 74); Cuenca (Tello 67), Alexis Sanchez, Messi.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill (Bosingwa 12), Terry, Cole; Mikel, Meireles, Mata (Kalou 58), Lampard, Ramires; Drogba (Torres 80).
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)