Barcelona 2-2 Chelea (2-3 agg); a remarkable Champions League story ever told
A remarkable Champions league story was told, Tuesday night in dramatic fashion as huge underdogs, Chelsea against all odds stole a crucial point at Nou Camp against Barcelona to set a dream final on May 19 in Munich.
It was a game that showed Lionel Messi was only but human; that Barca could crumble under pressure and with all their repertoire of attacking talents, the dancing magicians were feeble at the back.
It also showed a resilient Chelsea side and an awfully indiscreet Chelsea captain John Terry who almost jolted the dream run to the final with a needless and avoidable red card offence.
It took an audacious chip from Ramires late in the first half and another breathtaking finish by Torres late in the second half to cancel out two first half goals scored by Sergio Busquets and Andreas Iniesta to break the impregnable aura of invincibility of the Spanish giants.
Two all it ended but the West London side qualified 3-2 on aggregate after sniffing out a crucial 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge last week.
The dancing magicians after a week of two painful defeats- first to Chelsea then to bitter rivals Real Madrid were tipped to appease their fans with a win and set up another final, with possibly, rivals Madrid who are up against Bayern Munich in another grueling Semi final clash.
But even Pep Guardiola would admit it was not going to be easy to take out Chelsea who have proven to be tough customers to the Barca side.
And when the referee blew his whistle for the commencement of the game the dancing began. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and Alexis caressed the ball in their usual rhythm and Chelsea watched, sticking to their game plan of stuffing the midfield; allow them to play but prevent them from breaking through the defence.
It was a risky game plan and many a time Chelsea fans watching on TV at a pub in Marble Arch, Central London obviously sat on tenterhook even with their favorite beers in hand.
For Barca fans it was just a matter of time to break through the huge Chelsea defence and that moment came. Sergio Busquets in the 37th minute latched on to a sublime cross on the left by Cuenca with an easy tap in from six yards. The dream was on.
Two minutes later, that moment of madness came. John Terry, unprovoked, or so it seemed, decided to take out Alexis, stomping the Mexican with his knee and referee, rightly so, showing the English man a red card. As he walked off the field in Nou Camp, Spain, a fan, swearing in anger walked out of the Marble Arch pub in London, cursing the former English captain as if to say- you let us down again.
And soon it was two. Messi had danced his way through to set up Andreas Iniesta who shot low to beat Cech for what appeared to be the goal that will send Barca to Munich.
The dream of a historic defence of a Champions League trophy was on. Barca were gone.
But wait a minute Chelsea had other ideas and Ramires had the answer. Played through by Frank Lampard, the Brazilian showed just why he is a Brazilian. He took a snap shot of Victor Valdes in post for Barca and served a cheeky, audacious chip that left the Barca faithful stunned and Valdes sheepish to end a dramatic first half.
It was a goal of breathtaking genius and it came from a Brazilian. Chelsea were back in it but needed to hold on in the second half. Will they be able to? Barcelona went all guns blazing, attacking from all quarters. They needed an extra goal to overcome a win but lose situation.
Then down Daniel Alves went in the vital area of Chelsea with the referee pointing at the spot for a Barcelona penalty and a yellow card to Didier Drogba who had been extraordinary on the night but whose late challenge on Alves looked set to end the Chelsea resilience.
It was Messi behind the ball; a born finisher, a player with a grimace of a deadly killer instinct but with a smile of a coy girl. It looked done and dusted for Barca.
But no, Messi chose the roof of the bar. He was human. His penalty went off the roof and came back for a huge Chelsea clearance and an exciting long relief for many Chelsea fans, some of who were reminded of the painful Asamoah Gyan World Cup Quarter final penalty miss against Uruguay.
The clock was no longer friendly to Barcelona and they pushed all men forward except Valdes in desperate search for that lone goal which had eluded them.
And they were punished for it from an unlikely source. Fernando Torres had taken Drogba out for the final eight minutes and I am sure for the most part that Torres was on, Di Matteo, coach of the Chelsea side would be wondering if bringing Torres on was the right decision to make.
The Spaniard was completely out of sorts but when it mattered most, he stood up to be counted. Barca had gone goal hunting and left the back bleeding. Torres sneaked through and after almost 20 meter ran, Valdes was the only impediment. Torres sent him crawling on the ground as he dummied his way and capped it with a cool finish two minutes into added time.
It was the painful nail in the coffin of a Barca side whose bloated egos if anything were deflated.
Somehow, and curiously enough, only few fans in the pub in Marble Arch in Central London afforded a smile and a little cheer. Those at the Nou Camp were intoxicated with such an emphatic result and decided to stay on hours after the match as a mark of respect to their gallant warriors who with ten men and for almost 50 minutes of football held a great Barcelona team, crashing them out in the process.
A great Champions league story indeed!