I’ve decided to save this blog for things I deem to be blog-worthy and the Chelsea-Barcelona match on Tuesday undoubtedly qualfiies as such. Legends are generally created retroactively but watching this match, you couldn’t help but feel like you were witnessing a legendary affair.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal my contempt towards Barcelona. I find them to be the hipster douches of world football. “Mes que un club” used to be a political statement, now it’s just further evidence of their snobbery and elitism. However good I think they are, they think they are much better. They believe their intricate style of possession and passing is watchable art. With that said, I fully acknowledge that they are a fantastic side, world champions and European champions which makes Chelsea’s feat even more impressive.
Like most, I gave Chelsea almost no chance in the tie. And for the first 43 minutes, everything went against Chelsea. A nearly impossible task rendered impossible. Within 10 minutes Gary Cahill is injured and replaced. On 35 minutes, Sergio Busquets put Barcelona ahead. In the 37th, John Terry gets sent off. In the 43rd Iniesta scores after Messi finds his finely-timed run. Barcelona is leading 2-0 and again order is restored. The question then wasn’t can Chelsea come back, it was how many more will Barcelona score.
Reduced to 10 men. Playing without both starting centre-backs. Trailing 2-0. Playing against the team lauded as the greatest in European club football history. Playing at the Camp Nou, a true mecca of world football, one of the world’s great sporting theatres in front of over 90,000 screaming Barcelona supporters. Chelsea were truly up against it. And then all of a sudden, a glimmer of hope. Frank Lampard’s through ball finds Ramires, moonlighting as a right back, who started his run in his own half and then brilliantly chipped Victor Valdes from 15 yards out. A true beauty of a goal.
A story straight out of Hollywood. You couldn’t have written a more dramatic script than the one that was unfolding. Three minutes after halftime, Barca won a penalty. Arguably the best player in the history of the sport steps up to take it. And Messi slams it off the crossbar. Chelsea are still alive. Barcelona continue to push forward. In the 83rd minute Messi hits the post. Barcelona, the best team in the world looked lost and frustrated. So used to teams coming after them, Barcelona looked out of ideas as 10-man Chelsea just sat back compactly and defended.
In the 90th minute as Barcelona pushed everyone forward, Fernando Torres, the 50 million pound flop got in behind the defense, calmly and coolly rounded Valdes and put it in the empty net. Chelsea’s spot in the Champions League final in Munich was clinched. It was chill-inducing as Torres ran toward the corner to celebrate as one outspoken Barcelona fan began yelling “puta” “puta.” You couldn’t help but feel good for him.
Against all odds, 10-men Chelsea, currently sitting 6th in the English Premier League, go into Barcelona and knock out the reigning European champions. This was the stuff of legends. The greatest upset in Champions League history. Tears welled up as Roberto Di Matteo ran around the field hugging everyone in sight. Rupert Brooke, the English poet who was killed in World War I once wrote “there’s some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.” A little piece of the Camp Nou is now forever England.
Below are some reactions to the game around the internet.
“So happy for Torres what a MASSIVE goal!!” -Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain
“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeereereeeeees. I believe in miracles.” -Ruud Gullit
“Incredible what a game #Barca-Chelsea! I’m actually very pleased for Torres! He suffered a lot what a great goal! Congrats” -Robin Van Persie
“Unbelievable performance from Chelsea. I didn’t give them a chance with 10 men but they have defended heroically!” -Michael Owen
“10 Chelsea heroes out there tonight..#hatsoff” -Steven Reid
“Scenes of celebration on the Nou Camp pitch, where the Chelsea players are dancing with joy. Blues boss Roberto di Matteo is wearing the biggest grin you have ever seen on his face, and hugging anyone who comes near him.” -Chris Bevan
“What an extraordinary game. Astonishing. Sensational composure from Torres. Makes me proud to be English.” -Sam Shepherd
“I am trying to think of a more unlikely Champions League win than the one we have just seen. You really could not have made that up. Chelsea were down to 10 men against the holders and had no recognised central defenders left, yet they held out for a memorable victory. That last-gasp Fernando Torres goal was the icing on the cake.” -Chris Bevan
“That was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in football. Can’t say they don’t deserve it, they’ve been brilliant.” -Ben Weeks
“Everyone should find a nearby hat, put it on, and take it off again in recognition of what Chelsea have just done! Incredible.” -Daniel Hicklin
“I’m a United fan through and through, but fair play to Chelsea that was nothing short of HEROIC!” -Barry Travis
“I don’t think I have ever been so surprised in a football game in my entire life.” -Pat Nevin
“Unbelievable defending from Chelsea!! Good to see an English team in the final… Chelsea-Real Madrid final would be feisty!” -Rory McIlroy
“All I’m saying is what a game I have just watched, football is mad but that’s why its so great and we love it.” -Kyle Walker
“An incredible end to an incredible night as Fernando Torres’ finish ensures 10-man Chelsea’s progress to the Champions League final after an evening of pure drama. The Blues did it the hard way, but their reward is a night in Munich.” -Phil Dawkes