The two semifinal second-legs played in London over the past couple of days couldn’t be more contrasting. If United were clinical in their performance at The Emirates on Tuesday — maximum damage with minimum fuss, an explosive finish was in store for the cliffhanger at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea and Barcelona squared off to decide who deserved to meet Manchester United in the final at Rome.
The game had a little bit of everything: a brilliant display from Chelsea, an out-of-sorts and depleted Barcelona’s never-say-die attitude, two outstanding goals, controversy, shock, disbelief, and unbridled joy. In the end, Barcelona went through on the away goals rule, as the match finished 1-1. Andres Iniesta sending the Catalan dugout in manic frenzy with his inury-time leveller to cancel out Essien’s early left-foot volley.
That wasn’t the end of the drama on a controversial night as Chelsea were denied four penalty claims (two of which they deserved) by the Norwegian referee. Chelsea felt robbed and unduly penalized, and Drogba, who was subbed earlier in the game, emerged in his flip-flops onto the pitch, shouting obscenities at the referee and the television cameras. The scene was shocking and totally unconceivable from a professional footballer, and the Chelsea bench had a hard time restraining him. Although Drogba threatened a lot, only Ballack came closest to smacking poor old Ovrebo. Terry, Lampard, and coach Guus Hiddink, all voiced their disappointment over the sub-standard refereeing, and I think they were right in doing so.
I like watching good football, irrespective of the teams that are involved, and Chelsea played really well and were unfortunate to not progress through to the final. And Drogba losing his cool, and doing what he did in front of the referee, sadly, took the spotlight away from the good football Chelsea produced against Barcelona.
It would’ve been a special night in Rome to see United lock horns with Chelsea again. Would Terry redeem himself? A question we’ll have to wait for another year to answer.
Originally published: May 9, 2009