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UCL Rewind: 10-man Chelsea survives to stun Barcelona, reach final

Chelsea (Getty Images)

El Clasico might have taken place at Camp Nou on Saturday, but a true classic unfolded there Tuesday.

Despite being reduced to 10 men in the first half and facing a deficit, Chelsea stunned Barcelona to advance to the UEFA Champions League final after a 2-2 draw (3-2 win on aggregate). Fernando Torres scored on a late breakaway to clinch the unlikely result, which included Lionel Messi missing a penalty that would have given Barcelona the aggregate lead early in the second half, and John Terry being sent off with a straight red in the first half for violent conduct.

Barcelona looked to be going through to the final in the first half when Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta scored to put the home side up 2-0, 2-1 on aggregate. However, Ramires scored with a deft chip just before halftime to give Chelsea back the advantage on away goals. Much of the game played out as most expected, with Barcelona holding much of the possession and Chelsea defending deep. The home side had 83 percent of the possession by game's end, but the defending champions could not break down Chelsea's organization in the back.

Chelsea advance to their second Champions League final in four years where they will face either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. The German side holds a slight 2-1 edge after the opening leg.

Here is a look back at a wild night in Barcelona:

The first 30 minutes were somewhat predictable as Barcelona camped outside Chelsea's box and created several quality chances, the best of which came when Messi hit the side netting in the third minute. Petr Cech stoned Messi 15 minutes later when the Argentinian was in on goal. Chelsea lost centerback Gary Cahill to an injury while Gerard Pique was taken out of the game with a head injury after a wicked collision with Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

The game sparked into life after 35 minutes when Barcelona finally had their breakthrough. Cuenca was allowed through down Chelsea's left flank and fired the ball into the box where Busquets was waiting to turn it in from close range. Barely two minutes later, Terry was shown a red card for kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the back well off the ball. 

The game appeared in Barcelona's control in the 44th minute, when Iniesta received a pass from Messi and slotted his shot past Cech. However, Chelsea retook the aggregate lead soon after when Ramires ran onto a great ball from Frank Lampard and chipped Valdes in first-half stoppage time.

Barcelona should have retaken the lead just after halftime when Drogba was whistled for a foul on Cesc Fabregas inside the box, but Messi, who has never scored against Chelsea, clanged the penalty kick off the crossbar in the 49th minute. Barcelona then resumed their encampment outside the Chelsea penalty area but had trouble breaking through the congestion. Even Drogba was back in defense, at times playing fullback.

Sergio Busquets had Barcelona's first real opportunity after Messi's penalty kick when he skied his close-range shot in the 77th minute. Barcelona abandoned all semblance of a defense in the final 10 minutes and were almost rewarded, but Cech touched Messi's shot onto the post in the 83rd minute.

Eventually, even an exhausted and short-handed Chelsea were able to take advantage of Barcelona's all-out attack, as in injury time, the much-maligned Torres latched on to a deep clearance and sprinted more than half the field, rounded Valdes, and coolly sent Chelsea into the final.


What did you think of today's game? Were Chelsea worthy winners? Should Barcelona have scored? Does Chelsea have a chance in the final?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I hate Chelsea’s Anti-football but I’m also tired of Barcelona’s TIki Taka. After Chelsea went down to 10 men and they camped everyone in front of goal, I began to see that Barcelona was starting to run out of ideas of how to break down Chelsea’s defense. A rather unconventional “work of beauty” from the Chelsea defense. I wonder if there is a lesson here for other teams on how to play Barcelona ? Or perhaps a wake up call for Barcelona to figure out how to change their tactics for the 10-0-0 formation.

  2. “I despise Chelsea, but something inside me did a flip-flop around the 60th minute…”

    As much as I hate to admit it, I’m right there with you. Especially with Terry off the field.

  3. Well deserved victory for Chelsea and Di Mateo.
    They stayed central and narrow the entire match, never once doubling down on Barcelona’s impotent wingers.

  4. +1 to MF.

    Said perfectly. Great teams find a way to win, even when their opponent takes away their plan of attack.

    I despise Chelsea, but something inside me did a flip-flop around the 60th minute, like the Russians in Rocky IV. It’s when I realized that Barcelona is the equivalent of the flamboyant Rucker Park basketball player. Allow yourself to be mesmerized by the fancy moves and quick footwork, and try to go for steals, and you’ll be blown away. Stare down your opponent, don’t back down, and play good defense, and you’ll soon realize that for all of his wizardry, he’s going nowhere, real fast.

    Watching Barca ping-pong the ball around to the tune of 80% possession really annoyed me – it was obvious to see that they were going nowhere and needed to change up their tactics. Barca looked dangerous doing two things – on the counter when Chelsea was scrambling defensively (first goal) or gave the ball away in a bad area (second goal), and when they actually tried shooting from outside the area (Mascherano had 3 fantastic strikes, Messi hit the post, etc.). They need more of that. With their current lineup, pack the 18 with players. Make them swing it wide. Nothing will be accomplished.

  5. The reaction of the opposing player should not be a determining factor. The intention and actions of the fouling player should be. Terry walked over to Sanchez, while the ball was 40 yards away, and kneed him in the lower back/upper a$$ area. Did Sanchez go down theatrically? Yes. Is it an obvious red card? Also yes.

    I understand about Barca’s flopping – I can’t stand Busquets for that reason. But good referees and linesmen see past the theatrics and call on what the offense is.

    In any sport, if a player takes a swing at another player but misses, do you give him a pass? No, you throw him out. Same thing here.

  6. Don’t you mean if Luiz is not hurt, God help them?

    It will be interesting to see what Gomez or Benzema/Higuain do to Luiz, who is not exactly a lock-down defender.

  7. How does this article not make one mention of Di Matteo? What a joke. I’m a Fulahm fan and hate Chelsea, but what he’s done with them is unbelievable.

  8. They beat Barca at Camp Nou without Terry or Cahill and one mand down…That Ramirez goal was the coolest finish I’ve ever seen.

  9. Must be something with the Terry family DNA. John Terry’s older brother Paul, a footballer in one of the scrub divisions in England, slept with the fiancee of one of his teammates, which lead that teammate to become distraught and commit suicide.

  10. I am pretty sure if Chelsea finish 5th and WIN the Champions League, they will go through qualifying AS WELL AS whoever finishes 4th in the Premier League. Unless the rules have changed (which is entirely possible), that is what happened when Liverpool and Everton finished 5th and 4th, but Liverpool won the Champions’ League in 2004-2005.

  11. Agreed that Ramires’ was the game winner, but Torres goal wasn’t inconsequential. It helped kill of a couple minutes of the injury time. 😀 Not saying Barca WOULD have scored in those couple minutes, but Chelsea certainly was well served to be saved from those added couple minutes of defending the all out blitz.

  12. You know, as nice as Torres’ goal was, it was inconsequential to the outcome of the series. The goal RAMIRES scored was the winner. He’s not getting much talk, but it was a Messi-like chip on the end of a great run and equally great pass. He’s been such quality during these past 2 games.

  13. Yep. It’s just crazy how little it takes to go from on the brink of having it all to being empty handed. All with millions of dollars at stake.

  14. It’s amazing hearing people complain about how Barca needs to get this player and that player and how players like Cesc and Pique are somehow not cutting it.

    These are some of the very best players in the world. You don’t just go out and get better players than them, but that’s what I’m hearing.

  15. No, you’re not alone. What Terry did was distasteful, but boy, did Sanchez make a meal out of it. I would say Yellow, but ultimately, in realtime, I get why the linesman might have reacted the way that he did and called for the Red.

  16. I think Chelsea goes with: Cech; Bosingwa, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Mikel, Essien, Lampard; Mata, Drogba, Kalou/Sturridge. If Cahill and Luiz are still hurt? God help them.

  17. It’s definitely not common, but I can immediately recall two times where team’s prospects on multiple fronts are effectively eliminated in a very short period of time.

    2002 – Bayer Leverkusen blows a possible Treble. First, they cede what would have been their first Bundesliga title to Dortmund by fumbling away a 5 pt lead with two losses in their last three matches. Then they post a 4-2 lost to Schalke in the German Cup final and follow it with a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid in the CL final.

    2011 – Between 2/27 and 3/12, Arsenal lose the Carling Cup final, lose on aggregate to Barca in the CL Rd of 16, and crash out of the FA Cup.

  18. Well all this Barca love is supposedly about doing it the right way and being the best team of all time but as soon as they lose, boom,everyone is off the band wagon and onto the next big thing.

    It’s all about winning and if Barca get back to that next season, all the shallow band wagon front runners will be back.

    Somewhere, Roy Keane is laughing.

  19. As a rule, England are only given 4 places in the CL. Normally the top 4 teams qualify with the 4th team having to go through additional qualifying rounds before entering the tournament proper.

    Now in the case of Chelsea, there is a chance that they will not finish in the top 4 but they can still qualify for next years CL if they win the final. As a result only the top 3 teams in England would get into the CL plus Chelsea (ie if Chelsea finish 5th but win the CL then they qualify and whoever finished 4th gets bumped down to the Europa league).

    However if Chelsea do not win the final then they HAVE to finish in the top 4 if they are to be a part of next years tournament. In that case they would most likely qualify for the Europa League (already have tho due to reaching the final of the FA Cup).

    I’ve been reading up on this a lot as a Newcastle fan because there is a good chance that we will finish 4th and if Chelsea wins the CL final then we miss out on all that great CL glory next season.

  20. I don’t like Barca but I don’t get how this game all of a sudden shows a gaping weakness. They dominated this game, created many good chances and were pretty unfortunate not to win.

    I’m not sure if this loss shows that they can’t adapt or that their style isn’t effective.

    (But yes the general gushing over tiki taka is pretty nauseating).

  21. Champions league is very interesting to me, but I never understand how the qualification stuff works from year to year.

    Question: does Chelsea (by making this year’s CL final) automatically qualify for NEXT year’s CL even if they finish outside of the top 4 in EPL? What about if they WIN the final?

    Anybody know? Answers appreciated.

  22. Let’s also not forget that Barca hit 4 off the woodwork over the two games. A little luckier there and they are through, even with all their problems.

  23. Passes attempted/completed can be a useful statistic, just like possession, but this isn’t baseball, statistics, at least the ones developed so far, don’t tell the story of a match. Take basketball. You want a guard who completes passes, that’s obvious. And I bet a great point guard completes 50-60 passes in a game. But unless they’re followed by a score, who cares? It’s like time of possession, it can tell a story, but unless it leads to scoring opportunities, it’s worthless.

    Barca didn’t want the win enough to stop being themselves for 45 minutes. If you can’t figure out how to beat a team up a man and a goal, at home, you don’t deserve any accolades, really.

  24. Germans love the Spanish. Haven’t you heard of Mallorca? It’s basically little Germany. But they certainly do hate the English.

  25. I think Torres received the ball in his own half – and you can’t be offside on your half of the field, even if you are behind the last defender.

  26. Perhaps someone can help me make sense of Torres’ goal: was he not offside because the ball was simply being cleared? Or was there a Barca defender (who I didn’t see) behind him as the ball was cleared?


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