The UEFA Champions League semi-finals of this year have not been short on drama, intrigue and entertainment. The result of the second semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeau have confirmed that both favourites to reach the finals are out, and the dark horses have proved that their old glory days are back! I
t is Bayern Munich v Chelsea in the final at the Allianz Arena on 19 May 2012.
There was drama in the first semi-final 2nd leg match between Barcelona and Chelsea at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night. Barca raced to a well-deserved 2-0 lead with goals from Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets over 10-men Chelsea after John Terry earned a red card in his moment of madness as he clumsly smashed into Alexis Sanchez with his knee in an off-the-ball incident in the 37th minute.
Against the run of play, Chelsea launched a clever counter attack which saw Ramires clear on goal,and what a cheeky chip over the advancing Victor Valdes! It was 2-1 to Barca (2-2 on aggregate). Barcelona knew that they needed a 3rd goal to advance,without which it was going to be advantage to Chelsea.
The Spanish giants bombarded the Chelsea goal at will and literary camped in the Chelsea half, with a 72% ball possession in their favour as they sought the elusive 3rd goal. Against all odds, the Englishmen survived because of some resolute defending which included some superb defensive display even from the experienced Didier Drogba.
Everything which could go wrong went wrong for Chelsea at some point during the night.
Before losing Terry, Chelsea had lost key central defender Gary Cahill through injury in the 12th minute. Barca also lost Gerard Pique to injury on 26 minutes.
Early in the second half, Barca got the lifeline they were looking for to get in front. In a very cruel development, the hard-working Drogba brought down Cesc Fabregas in the box and referee Cakir gave a penalty to the home team.
Up stepped, who else, but the World's undisputed best player Lionel Messi. The Argentinian crashed his effort against the cross-bar, and what a relief it was to the Blues camp!
Suddenly Chelsea players must have started to sense that fate was smiling at them and that there was a miracle awaiting to happen at the Nou Camp that night. The Blues players defended their goal area with their lives.
Even when it looked like floodgates of goals could open for the home team given their superior ball possession, the Chelsea players never gave up hope. Messi hit the upright once and there numerous great saves from Chelsea goalie Petr Cech too.
With ten minutes remaining, the Barca players were growing desperate and frustrated,but to their credit, they never panicked, and neither did they see the need to change their approach to the game...trying to walk the ball into the net.
Then disaster struck in the 90th minute. A long ball forward found Fernando Torres alert. He steered clear of the defence, rounded a desperately sprawling Valdes and killed off the match as a contest after tying the match 2-2, thus giving Chelsea a 2-3 lead on aggregate.
Against all odds Chelsea qualified for the final.
Then at the Santiago Bernabeau on Wednesday, Real Madrid raced to a 2-0 lead within 14 minutes, with both goals coming courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo brace ( a penalty and one from open play), only to see Arjen Robben pull one back through a penalty in the 27th minute.
That goal put paid to the hopes and dreams of a Jose Mourinho third Champions League trophy with a third diffferent club.
Real struggled during the penalty lottery after the teams remained tied 2-2 on aggregate at the end of 120 minutes of football. Bayern triumphed 3-1 on penalties and have now set-up a UEFA Champions League for the underdogs on 19 May in Bayern's backyard against Chelsea.
After all has been said and done, here are the hard facts:
- World champions Spain will not have any representative in the Champions League final on 19 May.Both defending champions Barcelona and other favourites Real Madrid are out!
- World's best coach Jose Mourinho will not have a chance to break the record and become the first coach to win the Champions League with three different teams. Mourinho is still very young as a coach. He could still set a new record as early as next year.
- Both Messi and Ronaldo (arguably the world'stwo best players) missed penalties in the Champions League semi-finals 2nd legs and at home and at crucial moments. At least there will be peace in Spain, no player will feel outdone by the other!
- Bayern have a chance to rescue their disappointing season at home by winning the Champions League before their own fans on 19 May. BUT they have a Roberto Di Mateo-coached Chelsea to contend with.