When the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals for the UEFA Champions League was announced, it seemed that there could only really be one final: Real Madrid v Barcelona. In the minds of many, this might have been the perfect clash full of intriguing battles – Messi v Ronaldo, Guardiola v Mourinho. And yet, via two extraordinary semi-finals it is Bayern Munich and Chelsea that will go head-to-head in the Allianz Arena later this month.
It is Chelsea’s semi-final win against Bareclona that is the more incredible of the two. Real Madrid may well have been favourites against Bayern Munich, but let us remember that this is a Bayern Munich side that comprehensively beat Manchester City in the group stages. Chelsea’s progression, on the other hand, seemed improbable.
…Barcelona dominated that game…
And yet, in a gripping second-leg encounter at the Camp Nou last Tuesday, it was Chelsea that prevailed. The first leg left Chelsea with a 1-0 lead though it needs to be said that Barcelona dominated that game and should have scored at least twice – ex-Arsenal player Fabregas missing perhaps the easiest of the chances. Going into the second leg it was clear that Chelsea were going to need to score at least once to give them a chance of progress.
The first 40-odd minutes were, in no uncertain terms, a disaster for Chelsea. They lost Gary Cahill to injury, had John Terry deservedly sent-off for kneeing Sanchez in the back in an off-the-ball incident, and found themselves 2-0 down thanks to goals from Busquets and Iniesta. And then, the real story began! Ramires brilliantly chipping goalkeeper Valdes to make it 2-1 on the night and putting Chelsea in a winning position overall.
…clean through on goal…
In the second half, the drama continued. Barcelona won a penalty and yet that most reliable of strikers, Lionel Messi, saw his shot come back off the bar and Chelsea lived again. The defending was solid, Didier Drogba in particularly fitted in well at left-back, and yet there was still one more incredible twist. Fernando Torres, who had come on for Drogba towards the end of the second half, made a mess of dribbling out of his own penalty box. Yet he kept on going forward, and a clearance from the Chelsea defence presented him with the easiest of chances – clean through on goal and only Valdes to beat. As Torres rounded the goalkeeper my mind went back to all the chances he’s missed in the past (who could forget the open goal against Manchester United?), I was sure the ball was going anywhere but into the net. And yet, on this night of all nights, the ball went in and Chelsea’s miracle was achieved! A 2-2 draw on the night taking them through 3-2 on aggregate.
What are Chelsea’s chances going into the final? Well, Bayern will start favourites particularly with their home advantage. But Chelsea have momentum and luck on their side just now – all Chelsea fans are hoping these hold out so that they finally get their hands on the one trophy they desire most of all.