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Valiant Chelsea knock Barca out, reach Champions League final

Spain,Sports, Wed, 25 Apr 2012 IANS

Barcelona, April 25 (IANS) Chelsea staged a remarkable comeback with 10 men to knock out defending champions Barcelona and qualify for the final of Champions League football with a 3-2 aggregate score after a 2-2 draw in the second leg of the semi-final at the Nou Camp here.


Fernando Torres scored an injury time goal for Chelsea to make it 2-2 in the second leg Tuesday and take Chelsea through, but the English side owed their qualification to a heroic defensive display with a player less after their captain John Terry was sent off just before halftime.


Barcelona controlled the game, but lacked the pace to score a vital third goal and were punished for defensive lapses.


Chelsea will now face either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the final.


In an intense first 45 minutes, it was a one-way traffic against Chelsea as Barcelona went 2-0 up in 43 minutes.


Chelsea sounded a warning with a quick break in the opening minute, but Barca replied quickly and Lionel Messi hit the side netting before Chelsea defender Gary Cahill had to leave the game after suffering a muscle injury to be replaced by Portuguese full-back Jose Bosingwa.


Barca were in control, but in a rare Chelsea break, Gerard Pique was injured after a collision with his keeper Victor Valdes after 15 minutes, moments before Chelsea keeper Petr Cech did well to deny Messi.


Sergio Busquets gave Barca the lead with a left foot finish after 34 minutes following fine work from young Isaac Cuenca and two minutes later Terry was shown a direct red card for an aggression on Alexis Sanchez.


Andres Iniesta then doubled the lead for the Catalans in the 43rd minute taking a pass from Lionel Messi, but just as the Barca fans were celebrating Brazilian Ramires scored for Chelsea as he beat the offside trap, after being set-up by Lampard, and lobbed a brilliant chip over goalkeeper Victor Valdes.


The goal meant that the sides went into the dressing room with Chelsea having a strong chance of qualifying by virtue of the away goals rule.


World Player of the year, Messi missed a golden chance to fire Barca ahead, hitting the crossbar from the penalty spot after Didier Drogba had brought down ceasc Fabregas in the box. It was first time Messi had missed a penalty in Champions League.


Barca kept up the pressure, but Cech produced a string of saves to keep Chelsea in the tie. Chelsea, who for the most part of the match were pegged in their own half, defended valiantly as the Catalans failed to create clear cut chances.


Chelsea completed the heroic performance with substitute Torres rounding off keeper Valdes and scoring in stoppage time as the Blues avenged their 2009 semi-final loss to Barca.


Important features of the match:


* Chelsea knock defending champions out on aggregate


* John Terry sent off in 39th minute and misses final


* Ivanovic, Meireles and Ramires also miss final after bookings


* Gary Cahill off injured after 13 minutes


* Lionel Messi misses 49th minute penalty


* Argentine has failed to score against Chelsea in eight attempts


* Chelsea reach second Champions League final


* Barcelona have failed to beat Chelsea in their last seven attempts


* Barca's last victory against Chelsea came in 2006


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