UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 2nd leg
Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea
(Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate)

 

 

Juan Mata (above left) embraces Ramires after the Brazilian kept his composure to bring Chelsea back into the tie shortly before half-time

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the Nou Camp
 

Ten-man Chelsea produced the performance of their lives to knock out the reigning champions Barcelona at the Nou Camp with an extraordinary rearguard action to reach the Champions League final.

In a pulsating encounter full of drama, the Blues, after losing Gary Cahill early on through injury and John Terry through a red card, found themselves 2-0 down just short of half-time with goals from Sergio Busquets and Andreas Iniesta but Ramires cool chip brought them back into the tie. Lionel Messi missed an early second-half penalty after Drogba's foul on Fabregas. An array of chances went begging for the holders of the trophy as a disciplined performance from the visitors kept them at arms length before substitute Fernando Torres repaid his huge price tag by slotting home in stoppage time on the counter attack to send Di Matteo's side through to their second final in this competition against all the odds on an extraordinary night in Spain.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola- who declared this week that Chelsea were the favourites going into the second leg- made two alterations to the side which narrowly lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg last Wednesday with Gerard Pique restored to defence for the first time in three games while Isaac Cuenca was a surprise choice in the attacking three as Adriano and Dani Alves dropped to the bench with the Catalans opting to start with a 3-4-3 formation from the off. Cesc Fabregas returned to the team after missing the 2-1 home defeat to Real Madrid in the El Clasico derby at the weekend which effectively confirmed Real Madrid as the winners of the La Liga title.

Roberto Di Matteo- who has lost only one of his fourteen matches in charge which came in the Premier League at Manchester City- named an unchanged line-up from the first leg success whilst admitting that his side needed to score if they had any chance of progressing. Didier Drogba overcame an ankle injury which forced him out of the 0-0 draw with Arsenal on Saturday as the Italian boss reversed the eight changes made for the trip to the Emirates keeping his players as fresh as possible for what was to be a difficult night on a large and lush pitch. David Luiz remained absent with a hamstring injury.

It took Barcelona only three minutes to carve out the first chance of the match in a dominant start for the home team with Lionel Messi blasting into the side netting after quick interplay with Alexis Sanchez.


? DID YOU KNOW ?

The last four meetings between the two sides at the Nou Camp have now ended in draws while Chelsea are still yet to win at the home of the Catalan giants.
The game plan from Di Matteo was simple as Chelsea, much as they had done in the first leg, looked to defend deep in numbers and relieve pressure on the counter whenever they could. However, they were forced into a change after only twelve minutes as Gary Cahill was hauled off through injury and almost in tears as he left the pitch as Jose Bosingwa replaced him with Ivanovic moving to central defence.

Barca continued to control the game, and opened Chelsea up once more with a delightful passing move, with only the legs of Petr Cech preventing Messi from opening the scoring one-on-one with the Blues goalkeeper.

Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drogba each found the side netting at both ends before Javier Mascherano strided forward before unleasing a twenty-five yard piledriver which flew a couple of inches over Cech's crossbar as the home side continued to search for a way through.

The hosts were forced to bring on Dani Alves after 26 minutes for former Manchester United defender Gerard Pique, who failed to recover sufficiently from an earlier clash of heads with his own keeper Victor Valdes.

The Brazilian Alves played a part in the opener ten minutes after his arrival, releasing 20-year old Isaac Cuenca down the left hand side, whose cutback evaded multiple Chelsea bodies reaching the feet of Sergio Busquets- one of a queue of people waiting in a Barca shirt who tapped in from close range for only his second goal in the last two seasons.

It went from bad to worse for Chelsea, as they found themselves reduced to ten men within two minutes of conceding. Skipper John Terry appeared to knee Sanchez in the back off the ball needlessly, and was shown a straight red card by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir who appeared to have taken the advice of either the assistant or additional assistant. A moment of madness from an experienced defender meaning both centre-halves were broken up before half-time and it looked like a mountain to climb now.

Barca almost immediately took advantage of their superior numbers and struck again two minutes before the interval. Lionel Messi caused panic with a barnstorming run at the weakened Chelsea defence before slipping a pass Iniesta's way and the Spaniard slotted into the corner of the net.


? DID YOU KNOW ?

Barcelona cannot become the first team to win successive Champions League trophies in consecutive seasons and have now won just two of their last five matches in all competitions.

But rather than implode, as so many teams have done against the Catalans, Chelsea responded, out of nowhere, in some style in stoppage time. A clever pass through a couple of defenders from Frank Lampard was latched onto by Ramires, who guided a delightful lob over Valdes to send the Londoners into the break with the advantage on away goals. A beautiful, beautiful goal and it looked as though Chelsea were not giving up without a fight- or one mighty defensive performance.

The second half began eventfully with Barca handed a chance to regain the aggregate lead three minutes after the restart, with an apparent trip on Fabregas by Drogba in the box spotted by the officials, leading to a penalty kick for the home side much to the disbelief of the Ivorian. Ivanovic picked up a booking which would rule him out of the final for complaining to the referee about the award. However, the gods appeared to be smiling on Chelsea as the best player in the world Messi unlikely- and unfortunately for his side- couldn't convert and add to his extraordinary tally of 63 goals this season as his precise spotkick came back off the crossbar and was cleared to safety.

Sanchez headed a pinpoint Dani Alves cross just wide of the post and young Cuenca, making only a second Champions League start for the club, was blocked at the last by Cech who spread himself well at his feet after more mesmerising approach play as Barca set up camp in the opposition half for the remainder of the match with a host of opportunities and almost 100% of the possession.

But it was proving to be the same story as the first leg, as Chelsea’s doggedness and resolve at the back was just enough to keep Guardiola’s men at bay. The sixth-placed Premier League side were almost caught out ten minutes before the end though, but Messi could only strike the post via a fingertip from Cech after being put clear with only the keeper to beat.

But the Catalans were out of ideas in attack, and were finished off for good by substitute Torres in the final minute of injury time. With almost every Barca player committed in the opposition half, the Spaniard got on the end of a pass out of defence by Ashley Cole, sprinting the whole of the Barca half of the field to round Valdes and slot home into an empty net with Chelsea staff coming onto the pitch jumping for joy and a massacre around the £50 million man who repaid his expensive price tag in the best possible way.

Chelsea continued their incredible renaissance under Di Matteo and will await either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the final at the Allianz Arena on May 19th as the two fight it out at the Bernabeu in Wednesday night's clash. For Barcelona, their only hope of rescuing the season and claiming some silverware comes at the end of the league season in the Copa Del Rey final with Athletic Bilbao.


ANALYSIS
Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"I thought it was an incredible story. One of the best football matches that I have ever witnessed. For Chelsea to lose Gary Cahill and John Terry within the first forty minutes and keep out Barcelona in the second half shows grit, determination, a bit of luck, organisation and team work. They had all of these elements in abundance. Barca weren't at their best and ran out of ideas in the end. Their problem is not having a Plan B- the only way they work is by playing football. Sometimes you cannot just play football and win. It requires digging deep. They dominated the second half but very rarely opened up Chelsea's barrier. Like last week, there were some massive performances out their in Chelsea shirts and to pull off a result like this is one of the best moments in Champions League history. They deserve a lot of credit and Di Matteo is Harry Houdini in disguise. What a job he is doing!" 


 

Tuesday 24th April 2012

UEFA Champions League Semi-Final 2nd leg

Nou Camp

 

Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea                                KO 7:45pm              (HT 2-1)         (Aggregate 2-3)

Busquets 35    Ramires 45+1
Iniesta 43       Torres 90+2
Messi 48 missed pen

(Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate)

 

Barcelona:  1 Valdes- 6/10, 3 Pique- 3/10 (Dani Alves 26- 5.5/10), 5 Puyol (C)- 7/10, 14 Mascherano- 8/10, 8 Iniesta- 8.5/10, 4 Fabregas- 6.5/10 (Keita 74- 4.5/10), 6 Xavi- 8/10, 16 Sergio Busquets- 6.5/10, 39 Cuenca- 6.5/10 (Tello 67- 5/10), 10 Messi- 7.5/10, 9 Sanchez- 7.5/10.

Subs not used:  13 Pinto, 21 Adriano, 11 Thiago, 17 Pedro

Booked:      Iniesta (50), Messi (71)

 

Chelsea:  1 Cech- 9/10, 2 Ivanovic- 8.5/10, 26 Terry (C)- 3.5/10, 24 Cahill- 2.5/10 (Bosingwa 12- 7.5/10), 3 Cole- 9/10, 16 Merieles- 8.5/10, 8 Lampard- 9/10, 12 Mikel- 8.5/10, 10 Mata 7/10 (Kalou 58- 6/10), 11 Drogba- 8/10 (Torres 80- 3.5/10), 7 Ramires- 9/10.

Subs not used:  22 Turnbull, 5 Essien, 15 Malouda, 23 Sturridge

Booked:      Mikel (32), Ramires (44), Ivanovic (48), Cech (58), Lampard (70), Merieles (88)

Sent-off:    Terry (36)

 

My Man of the Match:     Ashley Cole (Chelsea)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:     John Terry (Chelsea)- Rating 3.5/10 

 

 

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 95,845

 

 

Match Facts

Possession: Barcelona- 28%               Chelsea- 72%

Shots: Barcelona- 23                 Chelsea- 7

Shots on target: Barcelona- 14               Chelsea- 3

Shots off target: Barcelona- 9                Chelsea- 4

Corners: Barcelona- 10                  Chelsea- 1

Fouls: Barcelona- 7                  Chelsea- 10

Offside: Barcelona- 1                  Chelsea- 1

Assists: Barcelona- Cuenca, Messi                 Chelsea- Lampard

 

 

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