Iniesta's rocket ruins Chelsea's Roman dreams

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Chelsea 1 Barcelona 1

Roman Abramovich hurried across the Stamford Bridge turf after the final whistle like a man rushing to the scene of an accident, or rather a catastrophe, and goodness only knows what he found when he threw open the door of the home dressing room. Waiting there for him would have been the wreckage of Chelsea's Champions League dream for a sixth successive season, that makes it £679m spent and still no European Cup.

The fickle hand of football seems to discover new, ever crueller ways to deny the billionaire who has everything the one thing his money cannot buy. It was penalties in Moscow last year; last night it was a goal from nowhere, or rather from the right boot of Andres Iniesta in the 93rd minute, Barcelona's one shot on target in the entire game. The goal was the last defiant act of the 10 remaining Barça men who for long periods of the game were ploughed into the home soil by the power of Chelsea.

The power and brute force of Chelsea was awe-inspiring at times; but the scenes at the end of the match were an utter embarrassment. Didier Drogba's pursuit of the Norwegian referee, his "fucking disgrace" bellowed down the barrel of the Sky Sports cameras was beyond the pale and Guus Hiddink's refusal to condemn his player did him no credit either. This was Drogba's bonkers moment, he was a mad-man in flip-flops, whose post-match explosion should earn him a Uefa ban.

It does not take much to convince Chelsea of conspiracy theories when it comes to Barcelona and the Champions League and last night there was enough to feed their paranoia for years. A Uefa fix against English teams. A sinister plan to make sure the Nou Camp's great entertainers were in the showcase final against Manchester United in Rome on 27 May. The truth was that the referee Tom Henning Ovrebo had a dreadful game but talk of a Michel Platini-inspired fix is ludicrous.

Ultimately what lost Chelsea this tie was one tiny defensive error in an otherwise monumentally brilliant performance of containment. In the 93rd minute, Michael Essien, whose stunning goal gave Chelsea hope, failed to clear and the ball found itself worked from Lionel Messi to Iniesta and then past Petr Cech. Hiddink's tactics of control worked a treat but to be successful they had to be sustained for the entire game and when at last Barcelona were offered a chance they seized it.

Six goals against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday, one shot on target in 97 minutes of football last night: such were Barcelona's margins of victory. Ovrebo, the Norwegian referee, turned down three penalty appeals for Chelsea which was why Hiddink said that the prevailing mood in the dressing room afterwards was one of "injustice". Yet for all Chelsea's disgust, the red card for Eric Abidal which meant Barcelona played the last 25 minutes with 10 men was also dubious in the extreme.

If Chelsea had wanted to put this game beyond doubt then they should not have relied on a referee, who admittedly had a desperate game, they should have taken matters into their own hands. Drogba, barnstorming though he was before his substitution, missed a glorious chance on 52 minutes when Nicolas Anelka played him in and Victor Valdes saved with his feet. Chelsea had their opportunities and yet they let the 10 men of Barça back into it.

Those three penalty appeals in full. On 24 minutes, Florent Malouda and Daniel Alves became entangled on the left side of the area and while the foul started outside the area it finished inside it. Debatable. The handball by Gerard Pique on 82 minutes after a shot from Anelka was a penalty because the former Manchester United defender admitted afterwards that was the case. Michael Ballack's late shot that struck the hand of Samuel Eto'o? Again, debatable.

But before Chelsea consult the lawyers, or Terry rages against the world, they should remember that Jose Bosingwa's challenge on Thierry Henry in the first leg was probably a penalty. However hard done by they may have felt, that did not justify the gang-style pursuit of Ovrebo at the final whistle. Rather, what should be remembered of this game was a 20-minute opening salvo that was more frantic than the opening of Saving Private Ryan when Chelsea's sheer power and resolve swept Barça away.

This was not a night for Messi, the little man found himself isolated for much of the game, but in Rome he will get the chance to prove his is more than an equal for Cristiano Ronaldo. Henry did not play in the game, failing to recover in time from his hamstring injury. The bewitching passing of Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta in the Nou Camp last week was truncated by Chelsea's control.

Chelsea were at their brilliant brutal best in the first half. Guardiola, in his trendy skinny tie and sharp suit, had no answer to Hiddink's scorched earth policy. Drogba was an ogre, bullying the Barça defence with the ball in the air or on the ground. The goal came when Frank Lampard's cross cannoned off Yaya Touré and fell to Essien on the edge of the area. It was a half-chance only to a player of fabulous technique. Essien struck the ball first time, left-footed, into the top corner of Valdes' goal.

In that first half of the first half, Chelsea should have put the game out of sight. There was the Drogba miss on 24 minutes and a booking for Alves that means he will miss the final. When Barça were at their weakest, Chelsea failed to finish them off. Abidal was sent off in the 66th minute even though Anelka seemed to trip himself up. Drogba came off injured in the 72nd minute despite his gestures suggesting that he was fit to carry on.

After Iniesta's goal, Chelsea's players came piling forward to try to get the equaliser. Cech even got his helmeted head on a corner. How they could have done with Drogba then, even if he was half-fit. But the prize eludes them again and for Abramovich – let's face it – there will have to be a lot more money spent if he is ever going to open the door to a Chelsea dressing room and find the European Cup waiting for him.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Alex, A Cole; Essien; Anelka, Lampard, Ballack, Malouda; Drogba (Belletti, 72). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Di Santo, Mikel, Kalou, Mancienne.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Touré, Pique, Abidal; Xavi, Busquets (Bojan, 85), Keita; Iniesta (Gudjohnsen, 90), Messi, Eto'o (Sylvinho, 90). Substitutes not used: Pinto (gk), Caceres, Hleb, Rodriguez.

Referee: T Ovrebo (Norway).

Attendance: 37,857


Petr Cech

Chelsea's saviour at the Nou Camp had precious little to do until the final minute 6/10

Jose Bosingwa

Marking Messi in the first leg, now Eto'o and then Iniesta. Coped well with them all 7

John Terry

Dependable as ever in his 50th Chelsea game of the season. Unlucky with one header 8


Would have been out of the final after yellow card. Needed Terry to cover up for him 5

Ashley Cole

Coped better with Iniesta early on than Messi who skinned him twice. 6

Michael Essien

Glorious goal showed quality going forward and allowed Busquets little scope. Booked. 8

Nicolas Anelka

Better down the middle than out wide. No credit for his part in Abidal's dismissal 6

Frank Lampard

Recovered from nasty knock to face to play some shrewd passes. No scoring chances 7

Michael Ballack

Could have been sent off in first game and had to tread carefully. Diligent if uncreative 6

Florent Malouda

More of a duel than a feud with Daniel Alves this time and he came out of it well 6

Didier Drogba

Not at sharpest when twice sent clear in the first half or when set up by Anelka. Theatrical 5


Juliano Belletti (Drogba 72) 5


Victor Valdes

No chance with Essien's goal. Chelsea failed to test supposed weakness with crosses 6/10

Daniel Alves

Furious bursts forward tried to make up for yellow that costs him place in final 6

Yaya Toure

Rare outing in brother Kolo's position. Battled Drogba well and saw him off 6

Gerard Pique

Fortunate not to concede penalty, otherwise stayed calm amid the predicted storm 7

Eric Abidal

Had kept Anelka quiet again until fateful moment of sending off. Rough justice 6


Most things went through captain, though final pass was sometimes wayward 6

Sergi Busquets

Playing centre midfield for Barça is a demanding role and the game often passed him by 4

Seydou Keita

Given his chance by Thierry Henry's injury, he was a weak link on the left of midfield 4

Andres Iniesta

Pushed forward into front three where he was less effective until his big moment 7

Lionel Messi

Started in centre, then switched to trouble Cole before half-time. Subdued thereafter 6

Samuel Eto'o

Dangerous when cutting in from left, found Terry at his best when moved into middle 6


Bojan Krkic (Busquets, 85); Sylvinho (Eto'o, 90); Eidur Gudjohnsen (Iniesta, 90).

Steve Tongue

The final

Barcelona v Manchester United

Wednesday 27 May, 19.45

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape