BARCELONA, Spain – Lionel Messi missed a penalty as holders Barcelona were sent crashing out of the Champions League semi-finals after 10-man Chelsea battled to a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou here Tuesday.
Chelsea, leading 1-0 from the first leg, snatched a 3-2 aggregate win on a night of extraordinary drama which saw the Premier League side recover from 2-0 down and the dismissal of captain John Terry to reach next month’s Munich final.
Barcelona looked to be cruising to victory after goals from Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta put them 2-0 up in the first half either side of Terry’s red card for a foul on Alexis Sanchez.
But a superb counter-attack and chip from Ramires put Chelsea ahead on away goals, and in the dying seconds substitute Fernando Torres completed an unlikely fightback to kill off an unforgettable contest.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo hailed his side’s “incredible achievement” in reaching the final, where his side will face either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
“A lot of people had written us off and we showed again what kind of character these players have,” Di Matteo said.
“We didn’t expect to play with 10 men and we knew it was going to be tough. It was even more difficult than we expected.
“They’re a great team, with some fantastic players. We just showed what we’re made of.”
Disappointed Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola attempted to strike a philosophical note after a traumatic exit.
“The first thing I feel is huge sadness,” Guardiola said. “I think we played exceptionally well. We have done everything we possibly could to reach the final. Finals are great but we’ll have to watch this one on TV.
“We have played well recently but it wasn’t enough. Sometimes football is like this. This year it was not our turn. This year it seems like we could couldn’t win.”
An extraordinary first half had seen Chelsea manage to frustrate Barcelona in the face of remorseless pressure despite the setback of losing Gary Cahill to injury after only 12 minutes.
Cahill was replaced by Jose Bosingwa, with Branislav Ivanovic moving to centre-back.
Despite the defensive reshuffle Chelsea’s thin blue line held firm, with Petr Cech saving brilliantly with his leg from Messi on 19 minutes before Terry slid in desperately to block Iniesta’s follow-up.
At the other end Chelsea were limited to pumping long clearances for Didier Drogba, who, just as he had done at Stamford Bridge a week earlier, was forced to plough a lonely furrow up front.
It was only to be a matter of time before Barcelona’s monopoly of possession yielded its reward and the breakthrough came on 35 minutes, the start of a catastrophic period for Chelsea.
A headed Drogba clearance fell only as far as Dani Alves on the edge of the area who picked out Isaac Cuenca on the left, who in turn rolled his pass across the six-yard box for an unmarked Busquets to sidefoot home.
It got worse for Chelsea a minute later with Terry’s dismissal, which left the English side with neither of their starting centre-backs.
It was not long before the makeshift nature of Chelsea’s defence was exposed and Barcelona struck what looked to be the killer blow on 43 minutes.
Careless play from Raul Meireles saw Messi dart forward and feed Iniesta, who sprang Chelsea’s defence and prodded past Cech for 2-0.
Camp Nou rocked with delight but incredibly, within minutes, Chelsea were back in the game and ahead on away goals AS Ramires scored.
Lampard’s magnificent pass sent the Brazilian racing in behind the Barcelona back four and when Victor Valdes advanced the rangy midfielder clipped an exquisite chip into the net to make it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time.
The Catalans were swiftly back into their stride in the second half, however, and when Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas to concede a penalty the match again seem to have swung in Barcelona’s favour.
Yet Messi, the most prolific scorer in Europe this season with 63 goals, implausibly crashed his spot-kick against the bar and Chelsea were let off.
But the pattern of the game had been set, and what followed was 40 minutes of excruciating tension as Barcelona took up permanent residence on the edge of Chelsea’s penalty area.
Chelsea, however, somehow managed to thwart their tormentors, closing down relentlessly and never allowing Messi, Xavi and Iniesta the freedom to work the ball into dangerous positions.
All too often Barcelona’s artful probing led to nothing as they cut the ball back from wide positions where Chelsea’s wall of bodies stood firm.
Sanchez had a goal disallowed before Cech tipped a shot from Messi onto the post in a frantic finale.
Then with Barcelona caught pressing upfield, Torres darted clear of the home side’s defence and touched round Valdes to score and Chelsea were through.
The win came at a cost, however, with Ramires, Ivanovic and Meireles all picking up bookings that will keep them out of the final. – Agence France-Presse