Iniesta breaks Blues hearts
A late strike from Andres Iniesta saw Barcelona snatch a 1-1 draw with Chelsea and a place in the UEFA Champions League final.
Last Updated: 07/05/09 1:06pm
A dramatic late strike from Andres Iniesta saw Barcelona snatch a 1-1 draw with Chelsea and a place in the UEFA Champions League final.
Michael Essien's spectacular opener appeared to have the Blues on course for a second consecutive final, but it is Pep Guardiola's side that will do battle with Manchester United in Rome on 27th May.
Chelsea knew they could ill-afford to adopt the defensive approach that served them so well during a goalless first leg in Camp Nou and set out to attack their illustrious opponents from the off.
They were forced to soak up some early pressure, which saw Jose Bosingwa hack a deflected Xavi effort off the line, but the hosts soon found their feet.
It took them just nine minutes to force the crucial breakthrough, with Essien slamming an unstoppable volley past the flailing Victor Valdes.
The Ghanaian international launched a hopeful left-footed drive goalwards as he latched onto a looping ball 25-yards from goal and looked as surprised as anyone to see his shot cannon in off the underside of the crossbar.
Stamford Bridge was now rocking and the Blues went on to dominate the majority of the first half, refusing to let Barca into their stride.
The second period began in much the same manner, with Didier Drogba spurning a glorious opportunity to double Chelsea's lead on 52 minutes as he could only fire against Valdes' legs when presented with a clear sight of goal.
It was Barcelona, though, who then started to take control of proceedings, but they were unable to penetrate the Blue wall which separated them from a priceless away goal.
The Catalans then saw their cause dealt a hammer blow shortly after the hour-mark when Eric Abidal was dismissed for tripping Nicolas Anelka as his fellow Frenchman threatened to break free on goal.
They were not to be denied, though, and deep into stoppage-time Iniesta broke Chelsea hearts as he lashed home an equaliser with Barcelona's first shot on target.
It had all looked so promising for Chelsea when Essien, who missed six months of the season while he recovered from a serious knee ligament injury, despatched a 20-yard volley beyond the despairing Valdes.
Chelsea's collective desire to reach the final once more was epitomised in the way they took the fire out of Barcelona's early football.
The Catalans, missing their two first-choice centre-backs Rafael Marquez and Carles Puyol through injury and suspension, played some neat, fast and accurate football in the first 20 minutes.
It was a perfect example of the beautiful game mastered by coach Guardiola but it lacked the cutting edge in the absence of the injured Thierry Henry.
The Barca attack has shared more than 90 goals between them this season but Chelsea managed to prevent them scoring in 180 minutes of high-tempo football.
That Chelsea scored with their first real attack of the game would have left the Barca coach bitterly disappointed.
Frank Lampard's attempted cross cannoned off Yaya Toure and Essien despatched his volley into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
It sparked Chelsea into life and, for the remainder of the opening half, they bossed the game.
Lampard almost put Drogba through in the 22nd minute but Valdes managed to beat the Ivorian to the ball on the edge of the penalty area.
Barca were rocking now and a catalogue of fouls by Dani Alves was finally punished with a yellow card when he brought down Ashley Cole, meaning the Brazilian the full-back was out of the final.
But referee Tom HenningOvrebo, who endured a difficult night, waved away penalty appeals from Chelsea when Drogba, a colossus in attack, was brought down by Abidal.
The second half promised more drama and it did not disappoint.
Drogba missed a gilt-edged chance when Florent Malouda and Anelka put the Ivorian clear in the 52nd minute.
Somehow, Valdes got a foot to his shot to keep Barca's hopes alive.
But the Catalans were in deep trouble in the 65th minute when Abidal brought down the free-running Anelka and, as the last defender, was shown the red card.
Chelsea continued to take the initiative as Barca were reduced to long-range shots.
In the 70th minute, Valdes saved Guardiola's side again when a Lampard shot took a wicked deflection.
But two minutes later Drogba was replaced by Juliano Belletti, much to the crowd's surprise and the Ivorian's clear disapproval.
As the clock ran down, Chelsea continued to pour forward in search of a decisive second to calm the nerves but, although they had made Barcelona look very ordinary, there was a sting in the tail.
Chelsea's heroes had fought for every ball as if their lives depended on it but they allowed Iniesta too much room and, when he beat Cech from 20 yards in the 93rd minute, chaos descended on Stamford Bridge.
But there was still time for more drama when Michael Ballack's goalbound effort seemed to hit a defender's arm only for Ovrebo to wave away more appeals.
Ballack was shown the yellow card for protesting and, when the final whistle sounded, Barca celebrated in unbridled fashion while Chelsea's players began their attacks on Ovrebo.
It was an unsavoury end to Chelsea's European campaign that may yet have further repercussions for the English side.
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