Breath-taking Blues reach final
Barcelona beaten by 10-man Chelsea with Messi missing penalty
By Rob Parrish - Follow me on Twitter @skysportsrobp. Last Updated: April 24, 2012 10:24pm
Chelsea produced one of the most memorable UEFA Champions League performances in history as they defeated Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate in their semi-final at Camp Nou.
The Blues displayed herculean resolve in defence to hold out against the reigning European champions, playing the majority of the second leg contest with only 10 men after John Terry was dismissed for a knee in the back of Alexis Sanchez.
Pep Guardiola's side were already back on terms on aggregate after Sergio Busquets had slotted home in the 35th minute and looked to be on course for the final when Lionel Messi released Andres Iniesta to beat Petr Cech soon after Terry's needless moment of madness.
But Ramires grabbed a crucial away goal for the Premier League side seconds before the break, producing a sublime first-time lob over Victor Valdes after being released by Frank Lampard to put Roberto di Matteo's men back in the box seat on away goals.
Messi missed a glorious opportunity to fire Barca back in front at the start of the second half, crashing his penalty against the face of the bar after Didier Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas and saw another late effort strike the base of the outstanding Cech's post.
Chelsea were camped on the edge of their own box for huge periods as the Catalan side probed for an opening, but their progress to the final was assured in stoppage time when substitute Fernando Torres burst clear, rounded Valdes and slotted home to spark scenes of utter delirium.
The only downside for the Blues is that they will be short of players for the 19th May final at the Allianz Arena against either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, with Terry suspended and Ivanovic, Ramires and Raul Meireles also ruled out after being booked in the second leg.
But they will worry about that in the morning after celebrating arguably the greatest result in the club's history and one which may finally convince Roman Abramovich to make Di Matteo's appointment as manager permanent.
There was an early blow for Chelsea as early as the sixth minute, Gary Cahill eventually forced off after slipping and pulling his hamstring, with Jose Bosingwa coming on and Ivanovic forced to move to centre-back.
It was soon level on the injury front, Gerard Pique lasting just 26 minutes of his recall after failing to recover from a sickening collision with the backside of Valdes that appeared to leave him briefly unconscious.
That failed to alter the pattern of a game which was a carbon copy of the first leg as Chelsea defended deep and in numbers once more.
Messi rippled the side-netting inside three minutes and, after both sides' injury woes, he should have opening the scoring in the 20th minute, firing a one-two with Fabregas against Cech's leg.
Fabregas also volleyed into the side-netting and Cech tipped over Javier Mascherano's drive but there was hope for Chelsea before Pique's departure when Drogba shrugged him off but could himself only find the side-netting from the tightest of angles.
The first sign of Chelsea's discipline wavering came when John Obi Mikel was booked for chopping down Alexis Sanchez in the 32nd minute.
And when they went to sleep three minutes later, they were behind, their failure to close down allowing Fabregas to square for Busquets to tap into a virtually unguarded net.
The build-up to this tie was dominated by talk of refereeing meltdowns in previous clashes but Terry simply gave referee Cuneyt Cakir no choice but to dismiss him less than two minutes later.
Cech was picking the ball out of his own net again two minutes before half time, Chelsea carved apart as Messi teed up Iniesta to stroke the ball home.
Chelsea looked dead and buried but, as at Stamford Bridge, they struck a dagger blow with their first shot on target in first-half stoppage-time.
Lampard was again the creator as Ramires burst through and floated a glorious finish over Valdes - moments after picking up a booking that would rule him out of the final.
The cascade of noise that had filled Camp Nou turned to silence at half-time but they were soon cheering again after the restart when Drogba conceded a penalty.
Cakir adjudged the striker had tripped Fabregas and pointed to the spot, with Ivanovic cautioned for his protest.
It looked certain Messi would end his Chelsea hoodoo but, incredibly, he smashed his effort against the crossbar.
Lampard was fortunate to escape punishment for a flare-up with Fabregas, Sanchez nodded substitute Dani Alves' cross wide, and Cech was booked for time-wasting having already been warned before saving well again from Isaac Cuenca.
Ivanovic almost capitalised after Drogba helped Chelsea win a rare corner but he was warned himself after going down theatrically, while Lampard was lucky to only see yellow for cutting down Fabregas after Messi was booked for tugging him back.
The visitors were hanging on and were given two lifelines in 60 seconds in the final 10 minutes when Sanchez had a goal ruled out for offside and Messi hit the post from 20 yards.
With time running out, Meireles was ruled out of the final after being booked for fouling Mascherano, who Cech saved from again in the final minute.
And then, in stoppage-time, a long clearance found substitute Torres with 50 yards of space in which to run.Unlike most of his Chelsea career, he made no mistake, rounding Valdes and slotting home to jubilant scenes.
|2||1st Half Goals||1|
|6||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||4|
|79.7||1st Half Poss.||20.3|
|87.6||2nd Half Poss.||12.4|
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|3||Zenit St. Petersburg||6||7|
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Barcelona v Chelsea
The international players' union has issued a call for clemency by UEFA for six players suspended for the Champions League final.
Branislav Ivanovic hopes to cheer his Chelsea team-mates to glory after brushing off his Champions League heartache.
Didier Drogba wants Chelsea to make amends for their 2008 UEFA Champions League final misery and help him put his own demons to rest.
- Lamps 'gutted' for Terry
- Messi not to blame for defeat
- Di Matteo will have to wait
- Mikel wants bans overturned
- UEFA to decide Terry fate
- Numbers game
- Cech targets glory
- JT 'let Blues down'
- Fleet Street's view
- 'Heroes to a man'
- Ramires explains yellow card
- Route to final
- Torres in dreamland
- Cahill 'praying' over injury