For most hard-working Americans, the Champions League semifinal second leg between Chelsea and Barcelona was not to be viewed. But, at high noon (when the match was played in the Western USA) one man sat in front of his computer and enjoyed what could very well have been the frontrunner for game of the year.
Chelsea knew from the first whistle that they must defend, and defend. Barcelona spent most of the first half well within Chelsea’s final third. They passed the ball about effortlessly and artistically. They needed a goal. Chances came left and right, and eventually Barcelona took the lead. Then John Terry did the unthinkable and got himself sent off for kneeing a man in the butt. Then Iniesta added a second goal, and the rout seemed rampant.
But as soon as the Barcelona celebrations began, and my friend, a Chelsea fan declared, “I’m glad we potentially lost I want Di Matteo out!”, a smart pass by Frank Lampard saw Ramires through on goal, and the Brazilian calmly chipped the ball over Valdes and into the net right before half time! It was a brave, world class moment for Chelsea and pushed the tie back in their favor due to the away goal.
Barcelona started the second half brightly while Chelsea packed their ten men into the box to form a shield that even Stoke City would be proud of! However, a dive by Cesc Fabregas put Lionel Messi to the penalty spot to seal the deal. This was the climax of the match. In yet another twist of fate and justice, the best player in the world clamored the ball off of the crossbar, and Chelsea cleared it away.
The Spanish club hardly had another legitimate sniff at the goal for the rest of the match. They managed to put in a goal after 80 minutes, but a player was just rightly deemed just a smidgen offside. Then Messi whipped in a dangerous low shot from 20 yards out but Petr Cech was equal to it, barely pushing the shot wide to hit the post. The Gods were seemingly rooting for the London club!
Players became frustrated and desperate. Messi received a yellow card for dragging down Lampard to prevent yet another Chelsea break away. Barcelona continued an attack moments after Didier Drogba began rolling around pretending to be hurt. It was all on the verge of inappropriate.
Fernando Torres nearly embarrassed himself yet again by giving the ball away in Chelsea’s third, and the resulting shot looked as if it may have come off the arm of Ashley Cole. But, the call for another penalty by the crowd went unheard, and Cole blasted the ball away, and somehow Torres had found himself with the ball and half the field between him and the Barcelona goal. With a slight touch he eased the ball around Valdes and found the net, silencing the Nou Camp.
In the aftermath, Messi was seen covering his face with his jersey in shame. Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola suckled on his water bottle like a baby, his job at the club in serious jeopardy after enduring three straight losses. And up in the corner of the stadium, the few thousand traveling Chelsea fans went wild. They continued to cheer for quite some time after the match, after everyone else had left. Chelsea for an upset of the ages, progressed to the Champions League final on sheer grit and determination. What a match!