Well, who saw that coming? The champions league has been much maligned recently for being boring, predictable and nothing more than a cynical, money making machine for Europe’s elite clubs.
Last night’s game was anything but boring and predictable, and a timely reminder of why football is the greatest sport in the world.
Chelsea travelled to Barcelona knowing that a draw would see them through to the final in Munich, but before the game Roberto Di Matteo spoke of Chelsea’s need to be positive and look for that all important away goal.
After losing their last two games, the pressure certainly was on the Catalan club and and they knew they would need to make a strong start to overturn the 1-0 first leg defeat at Stamford Bridge.
The opening 30 minutes of the game was fairly predictable, with Barcelona enjoying long spells of posession and looking for a killer pass to open the Chelsea defence. Chelsea to their credit, were defending well but were struggling to keep the ball. This wasn’t helped when Gary Cahill was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 12th minute, which meant Ivanovic moving into the centre and Jose Bosingwa coming on at right back.
Barcelona were pressing hard and it seemed only a matter of time until a notable chance presented itself. It came in the 35th minute when Sergio Busquets finished neatly from close range after Isaac Cuenca’s pull back.
It got worse for Chelsea just two minutes later when Captain John Terry was sent off for needlessly kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the back. Why he did it, only John Terry will know but unfortunately for him the eagle eyed assistant referee had a clear view and alerted the referee straight away. He had no hesitation in reaching for a red card, and after seeing the replay it’s hard to argue with the decision.
So 1-0, and a man down on the night and Chelsea knew the rest of the game was going to be an uphill struggle. Just a few minutes later the hill turned to into a mountain as Iniesta collected from Messi in the box and swept the home side into the lead.
Most people would have been forgiven for thinking that the tie was over at that point, but Chelsea didn’t. They somehow raised themselves for the remainder of the half, and Frank Lampard played a glorious through ball to Ramires who provided the calmest of finishes, chipping Victor Valdes to bring the aggregate score level to 2-2. More importantly, Chelsea had their away goal which meant as things stood they would be going to Munich.
Chelsea’s joy was short lived though, as just two minutes into the second half, Drogba tripped Cesc Fabregas in the box and the referee had no choice but to give a penalty.
Lionel Messi, who needed one more goal to reach a record 15 in a single Champions League season, stepped up and miraculously for Chelsea struck his shot against the bar.
It was a let-off for Chelsea, but one they seized upon and the sheer resilience they showed during the second half was absolutely superb.
Barca had their chances, Cuenca seeing an effort saved by Petr Cech and Messi striking a post from 22 yards.
The game was finally decided in stoppage time, as Barcelona threw everyone forward a defensive clearance found substitute Fernando Torres on his own on the half way line. He had a clear run at goal, and showed great nerve to calmly round Valdes and slot the ball into an empty net.
With that one goal, Torres has probably repaid his transfer fee and a large slice of the faith that Roman Abramovich placed in him when signing him from Liverpool 15 months ago.
The goal stunned Barcelona and the tie was over. Chelsea secured a 2-2 draw on the night and a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Over the course of the two legs you have to say they deserved it for how well they defended, especially when you are playing at the Nou Camp with 10 men for over 60 minutes. It was a game that will live long in the memory of all football fans.
Chelsea will now head to Munich on May 19th for a possible reunion with former manger Jose Mourinho, who tonight has to overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit against Bayern Munich in Madrid.
I would make a prediction, but if last night has taught me anything – don’t even bother!