Chelsea 1 Barcelona 0 - Champions League semi-final, 18 April 2012
Barcelona 2 Chelsea 2 - Champions League semi-final, 24 April 2012
With Messi, Iniesta and co. in such hot form, few gave Chelsea much hope of overcoming our great Champions League rivals over two legs, especially with the denouement at Camp Nou.
A tense, vibrant match at a noisy Stamford Bridge closed with Roberto Di Matteo’s side edged ahead thanks to Didier Drogba’s clinical finish, Ashley Cole’s goalline clearance and Sanchez lifting the ball onto the bar.
In the Barcelona leg everything appeared to go wrong. By the 37th minute, Busquets and Iniesta had scored for Barça, Gary Cahill had limped off, John Terry had been sent off and several teammates, including Ramires, were aware they would be suspended and out of the final anyway. Jose Bosingwa was drafted into central defence, Ramires to right back.
‘Stand by for the floodgates to open,’ lamented BBC 5 Live’s commentator Alan Green. Two goals and one player down at the home of the Catalans he had every right to think the Blues might cave in. What happened next was against all odds but exemplified again the insuperable never-say-die mentality for which this Chelsea side was renowned.
The first herald of something magical came when Frank Lampard put Ramires through on goal, and the Brazilian deftly, brilliantly scooped the ball past Valdes and in to the net, silencing Camp Nou on the stroke of half-time.
But Guardiola’s men rallied strongly, battering the 10-man Londoners throughout the second half. Messi, who had never scored against the Blues, saw his penalty saved by Petr Cech and a low shot finger-tipped onto the post.
Otherwise, though, the resolute visitors, with Branislav Ivanovic, Cole and Bosingwa simply outstanding, often restricted the hosts to passing and probing. Yet still, at any instant, heart-break looked a possibility; no one imagined it would be the Catalans who would suffer.
Like Jesper Gronkjaer’s winner against Liverpool in 2003, Fernando Torres’s phenomenal stoppage-time equaliser is remembered as ‘The Moment’. In fact, the Blues would have progressed on away goals without the Spaniard’s breakaway dash and rounding of Valdes.
Yet there was something epic about Torres’s spine-tingling run, and the coup de grace that finally killed off Barcelona’s relentless challenge, that is fully deserving of its primacy in the collective memory.
‘You can’t beat that desire and fight that you saw out there today,’ said Ashley Cole in the aftermath. But the best was yet to come.