Gary Neville isn’t the only one who struggled to keep a lid on his emotions as Fernando Torres raced clear to secure Chelsea’s spot in the 2012 Champions League Final.
It remains, without a doubt, one of Chelsea’s greatest moments in their history, and one the Champions League’s most iconic stories.
A Didier Drogba goal in the first leg of this semi-final ensured Chelsea arrived at Camp Nou holding a slender 1-0 advantage. But Pep Guardiola’s Barça side remained favourites, and the manner in which the first half unfolded suggested Blues hearts were about to be shattered.
Gary Cahill limped off injured after 12 minutes and Barça took the lead through Sergio Busquets, before John Terry was sent off after 37 minutes for violent conduct. Iniesta put his side 2-0 up, and the tie looked beyond saving for Roberto Di Matteo’s men.
Ramires scored just before half-time with a superb 15-yard dink, and suddenly Chelsea led on away goals.
Considerable Barça pressure early in the second half culminated in Drogba conceding a penalty. Up stepped Lionel Messi, who crashed his effort against the bar. Might fate be on Chelsea’s side? Messi went onto hit the post, and Alexis Sanchez had a goal ruled out for offside.
Enter Torres, who replaced Drogba in the 80th minute. In injury time, with Barça piling on the pressure in search of the winner, the substitute was played through as he ran from the halfway line towards the Barcelona goal.
Round Victor Valdes he went, and the Spaniard rolled the ball into an empty net. 2-2 on the night, 3-2 on aggregate, and Chelsea’s passage to the Champions League final was signed, sealed and delivered in truly extraordinary fashion.
Key Talking Point
How, just how, did Barcelona not win this tie and reach the final? They had scored 100 goals at Camp Nou throughout the campaign to that point.
Messi had netted 14 times in Europe, and had 63 in all competitions. They were 2-0 up against Chelsea’s 10 men after 44 minutes. Even after Ramires pulled one back, Messi had the chance to make it 3-1 from the penalty spot.
But his Chelsea hoodoo continued, and the Blues made it four consecutive games unbeaten at Camp Nou – drawing each of them. But boy, Barcelona would have been kicking themselves – logic states they ought to have won the tie.
Barcelona Player Ratings
Starting XI: Valdes (5); Puyol (6), Pique (5), Mascherano (5); Busquets (7), Xavi (6), Iniesta (8*), Cuenca (7); Fabregas (6), Messi (7), Sanchez (7)
Substitutes: Alves (7), Tello (5), Keita (5)
Iniesta proved a thorn in Chelsea’s side as he won the midfield battle for large parts of the tie. His delightfully composed finish put Barça 2-0 up, and we were all reminded of of his heroic last-gasp screamer at Stamford Bridge that sent them to the 2009 final.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, it wasn’t to be this time round.
Key Talking Point
Sorry Chelsea fans, we have to ask how on earth you managed it.
Visiting Camp Nou is never easy. Add the red card to captain John Terry, the injury to Gary Cahill, and the 2-0 scoreline after 44 minutes. And yet…
By the end of the first half 2-1 up, by the end of the second half level on the night at 2-2, leading on aggregate. That was that. Chelsea into the final, and the many odds stacked against them well and truly defied.
Chelsea Player Ratings
Starting XI: Cech (8); Ivanovic (8), Cahill (5), Terry (2), Cole (7); Mikel (7), Meireles (7); Mata (6), Lampard (8); Ramires (8); Drogba (8).
Substitutes: Bosingwa (7), Kalou (6), Torres (9*)
Whatever we all think of Torres’ torrid time at Chelsea, there’s no denying that his late goal goes down as one Chelsea’s greatest ever moments.
As Torres was played through on goal, time really did stop. We could only watch as he rounded the keeper, and gave commentator Neville a true moment to savour for eternity.
It remains one of the great Champions League moments – Barça were bombarding Chelsea’s 10 men, who were close to breaking. But that Torres goal defied reality’s boundaries, and set the wheels in motion for a special European finale.
What Aged the Worst
Make no mistake, Barcelona were a top side that season. But after Chelsea knocked them out of the Champions League, and with rivals Real Madrid pipping them to the league title, the world’s greatest side of the last several years had been tamed.
Guardiola announced he would be leaving the Catalan club at the end of the season shortly after their semi-final heartbreak. Perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back…
What Aged the Best
There’s no real way to try and describe the noise that Gary Neville made as he watched Torres roll the ball in to an empty net.
If you’re unfamiliar with this particularly moment of commentary, familiarise yourself with it. There’s nothing better than hearing Neville’s climactic squealing sequence. It’s one of the classic commentary moments.
Players You Completely Forgot Existed
Remember the Portuguese duo of Raul Meireles and José Bosingwa? Excellent. We thought you might have forgotten them!
What Happened Next
Well, Chelsea went onto the face Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final. We’ll leave that story for another day.
Barça were left with only the Copa del Rey to play for, and were soon left without Guardiola. All things considered, not an end to a season the club were accustomed to.
Would this have happened without Terry’s red card?
Why couldn’t Messi, at the peak of his powers, score against Chelsea?