An heroic Chelsea survived the dismissal of captain John Terry to eliminate holders Barcelona 3-2 on aggregate and clinch a place in the Champions League final, after an action-packed last-four clash on Tuesday in which Lionel Messi missed a penalty.
The dramatic semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou ended 2-2 and meant that Chelsea, chasing a first European title, will play Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the May 19 final, with the Germans holding a 2-1 lead ahead of yesterday’s Bernabeu game.
A victory for Real would pit coach Jose Mourinho against former club Chelsea, who were in disarray just a few weeks ago.
Tuesday’s match first swung Barca’s way when they opened a two-goal lead through Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, and Terry was sent off for lifting a knee into the back of Alexis Sanchez off the ball.
The home side appeared in total control, but Chelsea hit back unexpectedly when Frank Lampard sent Ramires clear in first-half added time and he lifted the ball brilliantly over onrushing Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes into the empty net.
Barca, who dominated possession throughout, as they had done in losing the first leg in London 1-0, squandered a chance to make it 3-1 early in the second half, when the referee awarded a penalty for a debatable Didier Drogba foul on Cesc Fabregas.
World Player of the Year Messi, also denied by a post late on, crashed his spot kick against the crossbar with Petr Cech beaten and has now gone eight games without scoring against Chelsea — by far his worst record against any club in Europe.
Substitute Fernando Torres, who had an impressive record against Barca when at Atletico Madrid, but has repeatedly misfired for the Premier League side, then netted for Chelsea in stoppage-time after racing clear and rounding Valdes.
“Football is like that, the favorite, the best team does not always win,” a jubilant Torres told Spanish TV.
“We knew that was the way we had to play against Barca and often it’s not the prettiest spectacle, but those are our weapons,” the former Liverpool forward added.
“We have a great deal of respect for Barca, for us they are the best team in the world and that’s an extra motivation,” he said.
Chelsea’s incredible rearguard action over the two legs is all the more remarkable given that they sacked coach Andre Villas-Boas last month and Roberto Di Matteo is in charge only on an interim basis.
They lie sixth in the Premier League.
“This year the league has been disappointing, but now we are through to two finals,” said Torres, whose side play Liverpool for the FA Cup on May 5, before heading to the Munich showpiece.
“A bad season could still turn into a memorable one,” Torres said.
Meanwhile, Barca’s elimination is a fresh setback for Pep Guardiola’s side, after they crashed to a 2-1 La Liga reverse at home to Real on Saturday that left them seven points behind their bitter rivals with four games left and all but ended their bid for a fourth straight Spanish crown.
Guardiola has led Barca to 13 titles since taking over in 2008, including Champions League triumphs in 2009 and last year, but Tuesday’s failure will inevitably lead to further speculation about the former midfielder’s future.
He has yet to agree an extension to his contract beyond the end of this season and reports have suggested he might take a rest or join another club.