We went minute-by-minute for tonight’s unmissable Champions League semi. Could Barca turn their mini-slump around or would Chelsea hang on for a famous victory and a place in the Champions League final?
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Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (2-3 agg)
Nights like this are why we all love football. Welcome to TheScore.ie‘s live minute-by-minute coverage of tonight’s Champions League semi-final second leg between Barcelona and Chelsea in the Camp Nou.
At stake is a place in next month’s Champions League final and, for better or for worse, tonight’s game will define the season for both of these clubs.
There have already been a couple of early plot twists on the team-sheets, so we’ll get right down to business.
And so to the teams. Guardiola came in for a bit of bashing for his selection in Saturday night’s Clásico defeat to Real Madrid, but he’s named an equally unconventional side this evening — three at the back, a midfield diamond of four, and the familiar trident up front.
Dani Alves is the major omission. He drops to the bench while Pique, Cuenca, Sanchez and Fabregas all return to the starting line-up.
For Chelsea, manager John Terry Roberto di Matteo has opted to stick with the same starting XI that ground out the 1-0 win in Stamford Bridge last Wednesday night. Goalscorer Didier Drogba has recovered from a knee injury and he takes his place as the lone striker in a 4-5-1.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic Cahill Terry Cole; Mata, Meireles, Mikel Lampard, Ramires; Drogba. Subs: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Essien, Malouda, Torres, Kalou, Sturridge.
Remember what happened the last time these two met in a Champions League semi? Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo does — as do the handful Chelsea nutters who apparently still send him death threats.
For everyone else, here’s a little reminder.
Chelsea gaffer Roberto di Matteo, speaking to Sky Sports:
Obviously, we believe that we will have to score a goal to be able to go through tonight so it’s going to be a little bit different.
I think we need a top performance tonight from us. We need to be able to limit their threats and retain the ball.
We are in good spirits.
What we wouldn’t give to be in the Camp Nou tonight. Here’s how the majestic stadium looked as Chelsea warmed up yesterday. With 10 minutes to go until kick-off, it’s probably a little bit noisier now…
The teams are in the tunnel and every single person in the Camp Nou is on their feet. It’s been described as “the lion’s den” on more than one occasion this week — can they topple the best club in the world?
Over on TheScore.ie’s Facebook page, you’ve been getting your pre-match predictions in. Here’s the early verdict:
Kick-off: We’re off. If this lives up one-tenth of its billing, we should be for a cracker.
Chelsea are straight on the attack as Cole breaks down the left and tries to play Ramires in, but Valdes gets there first.
How about this for a stat? Lionel Messi has played seven times against Chelsea; he’s never scored.
Ooof, that could’ve been a disastrous start for Chelsea. Messi plays a neat little one-two with Sanchez on the edge of the Chelsea box. He gets his shot off before Gary Cahill can get across to block but it’s into the side-netting.
Alexis Sanchez may just have broken Gary Cahill. The striker twists and turns so much that Cahill is left flat on his backside holding his hamstring. The Barca fans aren’t too happy at the amount of time he’s down for, but it could be serious. Bosingwa is warming up on the touchline.
Now I think Chelsea are taking the mick a bit, deliberately slowing the game to frustrate Barca. Cahill is visibly limping and the fourth official has the board up for the substitution when — hang on a sec, John Terry signals to the sideline to give Cahill two more minutes to see how he is.
He is the manager after all, so what he says goes.
This is a completely different Barca side to the one which lost to Real on Saturday night. They’ve already looked a lot more threatening on the ball and Ashley Cole is forced to hack a cross clear off the line.
Finally, John Terry agrees to make the substitution — Gary Cahill’s night is over, Bosingwa on in his place.
Another stoppage, but this one is Barca’s fault. Cech launches a missile into the Barca area which Valdes comes to punch, except he also lifts Pique and Drogba clean out of it as he does so.
“Why didn’t he just catch it?” muses Gary Neville.
From the replays, it looks like Pique may actually have been knocked out cold on impact there but he’s ok to continue after a quick rub of the temples.
Barca march straight down the other end and should really have the game’s opening goal. The interplay on the edge of the Chelsea box is a thing of beauty as Sanchez passes to Messi who then plays a one-two with the inside of Cesc Fabregas’s heel. Messi’s clean through, one-on-one with Cech and you’re putting your house on him to score… but it’s saved by Cech’s outstretched leg and Iniesta’s follow-up is blocked by Terry.
Two more half-chances for Barca who are finding plenty of opportunity to test Chelsea’s resolve here. Fabregas shoots into the side-netting from an angle and then, less than 60 seconds later, Mascherano blems a 30-yarder which whistles just over the top of Cech’s bar.
Barca may be well on top, but if last Wednesday night showed us anything, it’s that Chelsea will only need one or two chances to score with Drogba leading the line again. He outmuscles a groggy Pique on the bye-line, skipping past a rather dangerous flail of the legs, but can’t hit the target at Valdes’s near post.
Judging by the impact of Valdes’s blow and the dodgy attempts at defending against Drogba, there’s something not quite right with Pique. He’s hauled off and replaced by Dani Alves who looks like he’s just going to slot in to that back three.
30 mins: All very much going to script as we hit the half-hour mark — Barca pressing like demons, Chelsea resisting in an equally demonic fashion. Xavi has a pop from 20 yards but it’s well wide.
There’s your first booking of the evening, aided by the howls of the Camp Nou crowd. Mikel catches Sanchez with an outstretched leg and goes in to Mr Cakir’s book.
GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Chelsea (Busquets, 35′) That’s a killer for Chelsea who were beginning to look like they might hold out for a deserved 0-0 until half-time. A corner is only half-cleared, Alves slips it to Cuenca in acres of space wide on the left and when he pulls it back across the face of goal, they’re queuing up to score. Busquets does the honour – game on!
RED CARD! (John Terry, 37′) Stupid, stupid, stupid by John Terry. Off the ball, he knees Sanchez in the back with no provocation at all. The assistant referee spots it, the referee shows the red, and Chelsea are down to 10.
I can’t stress enough how stupid that was by Terry, a man who prides himself on being Mr Chelsea. That has done your club a world of harm, I fear. Fortunately for Chelsea, the free-kick comes to nothing and they’re spared further punishment.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Chelsea (Iniesta, 43′) Oh dear. Oh. Dear. Wonderful by Barca but Chelsea are crumbling now. Messi drives at the heart of the Chelsea defence, dragging them away from Iniesta who holds his run perfectly and then finishes coolly across Cech into the bottom corner.
Ramires is booked in the aftermath. If Chelsea were somehow to turn this around, he’d miss the final.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea (Ramires, 45+1′) Holy mother of football! Ramires. What a finish, I’m speechless.
Just as I was dusting off the keyboard to start writing the Chelsea obit, the Brazilian gets in behind the Barca back three and dinks a beautiful first-time chip that any of his fellow countrymen would be proud of over Valdes’s head.
As it stands, the 10-men of Chelsea are going through. Incroyable!
HALF TIME: Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea (2-2 agg) What a ridiculous 10 minutes of football. Give me three minutes to catch my breath and I’ll be back.
First things first, some of your reactions to that Terry red card.
Cian O’Connor: “Just about the stoopidist thing to happen in the champions league this year, what a tool”
ChelseaLen: “Captain tool at that. Unbelievable clown.”
Gus Lynch: “The word ‘moron’ has a new poster boy. Step forward John Terry! Numbskull.”
Here’s that Ramires goal, via the top lads at 101great goals:
Here’s the Terry red as well while we’re at it. What a fool.
Has Ramires been watching St Pat’s starlet Chris Forrester? Maybe, just maybe.
Lest we forget, there’s Premier League action as well tonight. Jimmy Madden might just be the only person outside of Villa Park watching the relegation scrap between Villa and Bolton tonight. It’s 0-0 at half-time, and he has this short and update for us.
Villa on top but Heskey up front says it all.
Second half: And we’re back. Can the 10 men of Chelsea hang on?
Desperation time for Chelsea as Ivanovic gets in a last-ditch block on Iniesta. Brilliant play by Fabregas in the build-up, cushioning a chested pass to Iniesta eight yards out.
PENALTY TO BARCELONA! Drogba catches Fabregas in the box, the ref takes one look at his linesman and awards the penalty. A huge chance for Barca, and for that man Leo Messi…
MISSED!Petr Cech throws a little bit of the Brucie Grobbelaar jelly legs… and Messi cracks his penalty off the bar and out. Human after all. A massive let-off for Chelsea, they survive.
What an incredible start to this second half. We’re only eight minutes in but it feels like we’ve been watching all night. Sanchez drifts into space between Ramires and Ivanovic but heads Alves’s cross half-a-foot wide of Cech’s right post.
Sky Sports’ touchline reporter Geoff Shreeves has just spoken to a “distraught” John Terry on the sideline. The Chelsea skipper explains away his violent conduct by saying that Sanchez checked his run suddenly and he simply ran into the back of him. I think — think — those replays will tell a different story.
Change for Chelsea as Mata goes off to be replaced by Kalou for the last half-hour or so.
Cech picks up a booking for time-wasting. That may be a little harsh from our Turkish referee but he’ll have to be careful now, particularly if he still fancies eating up a few more seconds as the clock ticks towards 90 later on.
Aston Villa 1-1 Bolton: It’s all happening in Villa Park as well. Stephen Warnock puts Villa one up, heading home an N’Zogbia cross, but Bolton are back on level terms within three minutes thanks to a Martin Petrov penalty. Maybe he could give Leo Messi some advice?
Aston Villa 1-2 Bolton: David N’Gog has just scored what could be a pivotal goal in the race to avoid the drop. Bolton lead at Villa Park.
Back in the Nou Camp, you don’t need me to tell you how it’s going. Pressure, pressure, pressure from Barca; defend, defend, defend from Chelsea. The hosts are trying to stretch Chelsea’s 10 men by using the flanks, but it’s just allowing Chelsea to pack the box and head cross after cross clear.
Isaac Cuenca’s work is done for the night. He’s replaced by Cristian Tello who could do with a goal after his disappointing showing in el Clásico on Saturday.
That very nearly could’ve been a goal for Chelsea. A long ball looked to hang up between the retreating Barca back three and Valdes but Kalou just wasn’t alert enough to take advantage.
75 mins: Chelsea are 15 minutes from the Champions League but all of the football is being played in the 30 yards around Petr Cech’s goal. I hope you have some fingernails left…
A snifter of a chance for Barca as Iniesta lofts the ball into the box and Alves knocks it down. Busquets is off-balance though and his effort is well over Cech’s bar.
For all of their endeavour and possession, Barca are struggling to manufacture any real end product. Chelsea are proving to be remarkably resilient.
80 mins: STOP! Fernando time… Torres is on for Drogba for these final ten minutes.
If any of you are wondering about possession stats, it’s 72:28 in Barca’s favour.
Barca have the ball in the net but it’s chalked off for offside. The linesman’s flag is up before Dani Alves pulls it back to Sanchez, who rifled it into the bottom corner. I’d like to see a replay or two of that one…
If football is a game of inches, the ones that count might just be on the end of Petr Cech’s gloves tonight. He gets the faintest of touches on Messi’s 20-yard daisy cutter and watches with relief as it comes off the butt of the post and out.
It’s getting interesting…
85 mins: Messi weaves his way through to set up Sanchez but it comes to nothing. Five minutes plus stoppages for Chelsea to hang on…
Three minutes to play. Chelsea clear again but only as far as Mascherano who, bar Valdes, is the furthest player back where he patrols the centre circle.
Meireles picks up a soft(ish) booking for a lunge at Mascherano. If Chelsea hang on for this final minute plus stoppages, he’ll miss the final in Munich.
Mascherano takes a pot-shot which forces a save from Cech. From the resulting corner, Puyol heads over.
90 mins: Three minutes of stoppage time stand between Chelsea and Munich.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (Torres, 90+1′) TORRRRRRRREEEEESSSSS! Nando scores, Chelsea are going to Munich.
As Barca flood forward, Chelsea break and Torres is on his own 60 yards from the Barcelona goal. He skips free, rounds Valdes and rolls the ball home. The £50m man seals it for Chelsea!
CHELSEA ARE THROUGH TO THE 2012 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
FULL TIME: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (2-3 agg)
Oh wow. What a game. What a performance. Somehow — and I certainly don’t know how — Chelsea are going to Munich. Incredible stuff.
Petr Cech, speaking to Sky Sports:
We’ve done it, we scored the away goal and that was the key.
We fought 90 minutes in the first game, this game we were 2-0 down and down to 10 men, but we did what we could.
We tried to survive and survived pretty well.
Ashley Cole, speaking to Sky Sports:
At the end of the day, we all believed. Not many people did, but we all believed.
Three to four months ago, no one thought we had a chance.
You can’t beat that desire and spirit and fight that you saw out there today.
Full credit to Barcelona –the players were magnanimous in defeat, staying on the pitch to congratulate Chelsea, while the fans never stopped singing for their team.
Geoff Shreeves has just reminded Branislav Ivanovic that the yellow card he picked up after the Barca penalty rules him out of the final. The news looks like it has hit the poor fella like a brick wall.
Frank Lampard, speaking to Sky Sports:
It’s one of the finest moments I’ve felt in a Chelsea shirt. What a performance.
To perform like that, what spirit. It’s unbelievable.
Even with seconds to go, we had fresh in our minds what happened a few years ago when they scored at the death and you always wonder if it could happen again.
In all that madness, I forgot to inform you that it has finished Aston Villa 1-2 Bolton. Villa are now just three points clear of the relegation zone.
Here’s that Messi pen:
This won’t be the best footage of the Torres goal you see tonight, but you need to turn this one up loud and listen to Gary Neville’s commentary. This is going to be replayed over and over and over and over.
Having effectively lost La Liga to Real Madrid on Saturday, Barcelona endured another disastrous result against Chelsea tonight, exiting the Champions League in the process.
With that in mind, is it the end of an era for Barca? Will Pep Guardiola leave? Will they attempt to build a new team, while ditching veterans such as Carlos Puyol and Xavi?
Or is this just a temporary blip for the so-called best team in the world? Will they be back next season, with the same players, more determined than ever to silence their critics?
Didier Drogba, speaking to Sky Sports:
We did it in a brilliant way. We defended well and tried to score the chances we had.
We are very happy because we qualified because we keep our feet on the ground because we are missing two of our best players [Terry & Ivanovic] for the final.
In any team, when you win, everything goes better. The morale is better, the players are happy. It’s better to go to training with a smile.
It’s a good achievement but now we have to win it.
That’s it from me on an exhilarating, exhausting, utterly entertaining night. They said it couldn’t be done, but 10-man Chelsea just strode into the lion’s den and beat the brilliant Barcelona. Blue is the only colour in Catalonia tonight.
We’ll be back tomorrow night to see if it is Real Madrid or Bayern Munich who will join them on 19 May. See you then.
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