Torres finally earns his £50m fee with last-minute winner

Apr 25, 2012
Bill Mann

It was Chelsea's finest hour, says Lampard – no thanks to John Terry and his brainless sending-off

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Barcelona 2 Chelsea 2 [Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate]. What a night! What a night to be a Chelsea fan and what a night to be Fernando Torres – the £50m flop who kept his cool in the Camp Nou to score the goal that sealed the Blues' place in next month's Champions League final and stunned the whole of Barcelona.

Torres's clinical finish was the remarkable end to an incredible match in which John Terry was sent off for a brainless foul and Lionel Messi was made to look ordinary.

The Chelsea captain will miss the final in Munich as a result of the knee he delivered into the back of Alexis Sanchez at 37 minutes, as will Ramires, Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic, all of whom were booked in one of the most dramatic matches in the history of the Champions League.

Terry later admitted his wrongdoing, saying: "I raised my knee but hopefully the people out there who know me, know I'm not that kind of player." Close to tears, Terry said he had apologised to his team-mates for letting them down, adding "I want to apologise to the Chelsea fans as well".

Not that the Chelsea faithful much cared about Terry's contrition in the immediate aftermath of what Frank Lampard described as the club's "finest hour".

The England midfielder was immense for Chelsea right from the kick-off as the Blues sought to defend their 1-0 advantage from the first leg. He said afterwards: "I know people want to see beautiful football, but to play for 50 minutes with 10 men and to be 2-0 down here and to perform like that... what spirit. Unbelievable."

It was indeed an unbelievable result, one that few could have imagined as Chelsea endured a nightmare opening 40 minutes. First they lost centre half Gary Cahill to a hamstring injury on 12 minutes and then Sergio Busquets stroked home Isaac Cuenca's pull-back on 35 minutes to level the aggregate scores.

Perhaps it was the pressure that made Terry do what he did but whatever pressure there existed before the centre-half lost his head and saw red, it increased tenfold when Andres Iniesta fired home Barcelona's second just minutes later.

A goal down on aggregate and a man down, Chelsea appeared to be about to implode. Suddenly there was a moment of exquisite class as Frank Lampard threaded a clever ball through to Ramires. The Brazilian ran on to the pass, glanced up at the advancing Victor Valdes and chipped the ball over the Barcelona keeper's head with the nonchalance of a man playing in the park on a Sunday afternoon.

Barcelona came out after the break intent on running riot and when Cesc Fabregas took a tumble over the outstretched leg of Didier Drogba three minutes into the second half Chelsea fans feared the worst. Lionel Messi took the spot kick, the same Lionel Messi who has scored 63 goals this season, including a record 14 in the Champions League, but the Argentine belted the ball against the crossbar and Chelsea breathed again.

The rest of the second half was a magnificent defensive effort by the visitors, denying and frustrating the reigning European champions, with Petr Cech pulling off fine saves from Cuenca and Messi. Then on the stroke of full-time Chelsea counter-attacked and Torres, the man who's barely had a shot on target in the 15 months since he arrived from Liverpool, calmly rounded Valdes to score the goal that killed off the Catalan club.

"It is an incredible achievement by this group of players," said Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo. "A lot of people had written us off but the players showed their character. We didn't expect to play with ten men so it was even more difficult than expected."

His opposite number, Pep Guardiola, rued his side's missed chances but was quick to pay tribute to his conquerors. "I congratulate Chelsea for their bravery and mental fortitude," he said. "They put in a great defensive performance. We wish them all the luck in the final."

Chelsea will know by the end of today if they'll face Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in Munich on May 19, but that wasn't on the mind of Di Matteo last night. "When it is the right time, we will think about the final," he grinned before going off to celebrate.

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