Chelsea through to 2012 UEFA Champions League Final
Goals from Ramires and Fernando Torres helped Chelsea win through to the Champions League final 3-2 on aggregate after drawing 2-2 at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night.
Ramires handed Chelsea a Champions League lifeline towards the end of the first half after a moment of madness from John Terry looked to have ended their hopes of making the final.
Barca peppered the west Londoners’ goal throughout the opening 45 minutes of Tuesday’s second leg and deservedly took the lead through Sergio Busquets, who tapped home from close range.
Things got worse for Chelsea less than two minutes later when Terry was sent off for inexplicably kneeing Alexis Sanchez from behind.
Barcelona surged further ahead through Andres Iniesta, although Ramires clawed a goal back in stoppage time with a deft chip.
The Nou Camp was rocking as the game got under way and the noise level went up a further notch inside three minutes.
After neat interplay between Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi, the former’s weighted ball put the Argentina international through on goal and he rifled a shot into the side-netting.
Chelsea were being penned back in their own half and forced to defend from the outset, resulting in Gary Cahill requiring treatment when over-extending in his attempts to thwart Sanchez.
Ashley Cole hacked an Andres Iniesta cross off the line as Barca continued to press and the visitors’ challenge was made all the more difficult when they were forced into a 13th-minute defensive reshuffle.
Cahill had to be replaced with a suspected hamstring injury and handed over to right-back Jose Bosingwa, whose introduction saw Branislav Ivanovic partner John Terry in central defence.
The hosts looked set to make an early change of their own shortly afterwards when Gerard Pique was involved in a horrific collision in his own penalty box.
Victor Valdes came storming off his line to punch the ball away under pressure from Drogba, but decked his own player in the process.
Pique was allowed to continue after being assessed by medical staff and would have been celebrating moments later was it not for last-ditch action.
Cesc Fabregas put Messi through on goal with an exquisite backheel, but Petr Cech saved superbly and Iniesta’s follow-up effort was blocked by Terry.
The Barca onslaught continued as they looked to level the tie, with Fabregas shooting inches wide and Javier Mascherano going close from range.
Chelsea were welcoming the hosts on and attempting to hit them on the counter-attack, with Drogba their main outlet.
Having blazed a shot over moments earlier, the Ivorian came close in the 25th minute when he shrugged off pressure from Pique to fire just wide of Valdes’ near post.
It was Pique’s last action of the night as Alves replaced the Spain international, who was feeling the effects of the earlier collision with his goalkeeper.
Iniesta fired across face of goal as Chelsea struggled to cope with Barca, who drew the first booking of the night as John Obi Mikel struggled to cope with Sanchez.
Barca were pressing in numbers and they got the lead they deserved in the 35th minute, with Sergio Busquets nonchalantly tapping home a squared ball from Cuenca.
Things got a whole lot worse for Chelsea less than two minutes later when Terry received a straight red card.
The Chelsea captain inexplicably chose to knee Sanchez from behind, leaving referee Cuneyt Cakir no choice but to send him off.
The dismissal left Chelsea looking lost defensively and they fell further behind as Andres Iniesta latched onto a Messi pass and prodded past Cech in the 43rd minute.
The match took another twist, though, in stoppage time as Ramires collected a Frank Lampard pass and expertly chipped the ball over Valdes.
The Brazil international’s goal may have put Chelsea on course for the final but he will not be there should they make it, having picked up a booking just before scoring.
Barca continued to press forward undeterred in the second half, with Iniesta seeing a shot blocked by Ivanovic two minutes after the restart.
The Catalan side’s pressure paid dividend shortly afterwards, with the officials awarding a penalty.
Drogba was adjudged to have brought down Fabregas in the box, but Messi could only smash the resulting spot-kick onto the crossbar.
Ivanovic’s remonstrations saw him booked in the build-up and meant he too would miss the Munich finale should Chelsea make it.
Iniesta soon followed him into the referee’s notebook, before Sanchez nodded Alves’ cross wide and Cech was booked for time-wasting.
The Czech Republic international continued to frustrate the home faithful and did so in style in the 62nd minute, pulling off a superb save to deny Cuenca.
Chelsea managed to deal with wave after wave of Barcelona attacks before Torres broke through late on after coming on as a substitute to make sure of the club’s passage into the final.