Lionel Messi couldn’t score against Chelsea and Petr Cech once again. Barcelona got stung by a team that did nothing but defend and strike back exactly twice, exactly enough. Fernando Torres saw Barca colors, and remembered how to score. An incredible night, incredible Semi Final. Somehow, against all odds, Chelsea drew 2-2 at the Camp Nou and are back in the Champions League Final with a 3-2 aggregate score.
Did the result have anything to do with what happened on the pitch? Not the slightest. Chelsea parked the bus, and Barcelona just, somehow, let this one slip away from them. They had the 2-0 lead before half time, and pretty much the only time Chelsea tried and build a proper attack struck gold, with Ramires using his speed and a some guile with a wonderful chip over Valdes to stun the stadium.
More incredible? Chelsea played with 10 men from the 37th minute. No conspiracy, no nothing. Simply John Terry losing his head and taking it out on Alexis Sanchez. It was already 1-0 for Barcelona at that point, and everything seemed to be falling apart for Chelsea and Di Matteo. Lionel Messi found Andres Iniesta with a brilliant pass, making it 2-0. Game Over. That’s what everyone thought.
But heart and the willingness to put your body on the line, as much as that’s possible in this sport, goes a long way. Suddenly, Lionel Messi looks like the big loser of this season for Barcelona. A relative no-show for him against Real Madrid and worse, worse of all. Missing a penalty against Chelsea, a goal that could have finished off the blues for good.
Messi’s not a loser. Not even remotely close. Just happened to be out of luck and playing not at his best at the most important week of the season. Happened to be against Chelsea, now 8 matches without scoring against them, one of the few teams to keep a clean sheet against the world’s (aruably) best player.
Didier Drogba held back on the rolling around on the ground. Even when he did it once, in the second half, Barcelona simply kept on playing, like it should be done. The referee needs to stop play if he thinks it’s serious. Obviously, as Drogba went up the moment Chelsea won back possession, it wasn’t serious.
Some call it Catenaccio, some call it parking the bus. In some part of the world it’s called staying in your bunker. Call it whatever you like, it may not have been pretty, but this Chelsea team, under Roberto Di Matteo, is here to win ugly, and they have every right to do it. It may have crushed the dream of a clasico in the final and it may be a tad of injustice in the grand scheme of things, when you expect the better teams to always win, but it works. For the second time, a caretaker manager has taken Chelsea to the Champions League final.
We can’t end this without a word or two on Fernando Torres. Even an ugly duckling has his day, and Torres has had his share of bad days wearing Chelsea uniform. He was more of a left back for the 10+ minutes he was on, but he recognized the non existing defense after a Barcelona turnover, and took the ball all the way. His 8th career goal in 11 matches against Barcelona. Some things never change.