Just when all the odds seemed to be stacked against Chelsea—two goals down, John Terry sent off, playing away against mighty Barcelona—the Blues staged a remarkable comeback and sealed a trip to Munich for this year’s UEFA Champions League final.
Here are five of the key players who made it happen.
5. Frank Lampard
In the first leg, Frank Lampard picked out Ramires with a sublime pass and he in turn squared the ball off to Didier Drogba. The Ivorian had then slotted the ball home and gave Chelsea the lead and eventually the 1-0 win against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.
It was the same story in the second leg. The same combination, Lampard and Ramires.
Just as Chelsea looked to be on the verge of getting slaughtered, Lampard played the ball to Ramires, who scored the vital away goal and provided a glimmer of hope for Chelsea.
Chelsea eventually did manage to win.
After the game, Lampard stated:
“It’s one of the finest moments I’ve felt in a Chelsea shirt. It was backs to the wall. I know we dug in and people want to see beautiful football, but with 10 men for 50-odd minutes or whatever it was, to perform like that was unbelievable.”
4. Fernando Torres
I’m pretty sure that this night ranks as one of Fernando Torres’ best ever.
With one goal, he has seemingly redeemed himself, but, I still don’t believe this justifies the huge price-tag that had been placed on him.
As the tension grew at the Camp Nou and Barcelona launched a vicious offensive in the dying moments, Torres broke through, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball into the back on an empty net.
3. Peter Cech
In the first leg, Petr Cech had produced a string of brilliant saves, most notably his stop in the 86th minute when Carles Puyol flicked the ball off of a Lionel Messi free kick that looked destined to go in.
He rose to the occasion yet again and denied Barcelona on the several instances, leaving them frustrated.
He produced a brilliant save to deny Messi in the 19th minute and perhaps psyched Messi out in hitting the woodwork on the penalty shot.
Ramires, yet again, proved himself invaluable after a superb performance for the Blues.
Shortly before the half, Ramires—perhaps the least Brazilian of all Brazilians—sublimely chipped a Joga Bonitasque ball over Victor Valdes to make the score 2-1 just before the half.
More importantly, he gave Chelsea the crucial away goal and gave the Chelsea team hope to continue and regroup after the break.
It’s a pity that he, along with John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic, will be suspended for the final.
1. Ashley Cole
Sometimes in football, one individual manages to rise above the rest and inspires his team to be resolute. Tonight, that man was Ashley Cole.
The second goal, coupled with the sending off of John Terry, looked to be the straw that broke Chelsea’s back. They looked downtrodden, utterly dismayed by the events that had just transpired.
And yet, Cole never gave up. For a period of time after Andres Iniesta’s goal, no Chelsea player besides Cole seemed to have the desire to continue anymore. All expected an onslaught.
Certainly, the goal that followed soon after was of immense significance, but it all started with Cole’s never-say-die attitude.
He also held the back line with perfection and thwarted Barcelona’s offensive play with incredible defensive solidity.