Magical memories of 2012 - Football: 'When Chelsea saw off Barcelona, the joy was in watching the spoilers have their day'
24 April: Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (agg 2-3); Champions League semi-final second leg
At the Nou Camp, the away fans are billeted high up in one of the stands from where the players, so they say, look as small as Subbuteo figures. The glare of the floodlights means players on visiting teams have to shade their own eyes to peer up at their own supporters. The Barça anthem drowns everything out before the start of the game. The message is clear: you, the opposition, scarcely matter.
It is a big, beautiful stadium that has an atmosphere that makes the away side feel isolated and alone. And that is before Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta et al, trot out on to the pitch and start pinging the ball around.
In the press box, a long gallery on the tunnel side of the ground, Barcelona goals are celebrated by the local press as if they were in the seats in the stand. Some even wear Barça scarves. There are more hostile grounds but there are none where the away side feel like such an irrelevance.
It was into this stadium that Chelsea came on 24 April to defend a one-goal lead from the Champions League semi-final first leg. They had been widely presented as the antithesis to the way football should be played. The great unlovable beast against what some say is the greatest team the game has ever seen. Who doesn't like to watch Barcelona? But it isn't half interesting to watch them out-fought and ultimately eliminated.
The second-leg match was my moment of the year. What a siege. What a desperate bloody fight to the end with 10 men after John Terry's silly sending-off. There was something gloriously impolite about the way Chelsea dug in and saw off Barça. Like a rasping fart at a posh dinner party, you just had to applaud their sheer impertinence.
The glory of sport comes in many different forms and goodness knows, Barça have done their bit in that respect. But sometimes the joy is in watching the spoilers and the battlers have their day. That was the case on that night in Barcelona when the drama kept on coming right up to the moment that, live on air, Geoff Shreeves broke the news to Branislav Ivanovic that he would not be playing in the final. Trust me, as a journalist, Geoff had to make that point clear.
Messi missed a penalty. Didier Drogba had a couple of shots from the halfway line. Jose Bosingwa popped up at centre-half. It was not just entertaining, at times the improbability of the whole occasion made me chuckle. Needless to say, the harrumphing of the more pious Barça apostles sat around me only made it more enjoyable.
Then came the remarkable denouement with Fernando Torres running clear and scoring. You could hear the Chelsea support go crazy but they were so far away it was a tinny sound like the noise from someone else's earphones. I got down to the press room at the Nou Camp having hit the first deadline and still in a bit of a daze. That was when a friend from another newspaper beckoned me over and said "You've got to listen to Gary Neville's commentary on the Torres goal..."
Olympics: ‘Mo, Jess and Greg gave us a night no one could forget’ 4 August: That night in the Olympic Stadium - James Lawton
Athletics: ‘The roar for Ennis made the hair stand up on the back of my neck’ 3 August: Opening day of track and field at the Olympics - Simon Turnbull
Rugby Union: ‘It was eerie seeing England sticking it to the silver fern’ 1 December: Manu Tuilagi waltzes to the try line as England smash New Zealand- Chris Hewett
Cycling: 'Bradley Wiggins' achievement was greatest we have ever seen from a Briton' 22 July: Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France - Alasdair Fotheringham
Football: ‘We’ll never encounter anything quite like it again’ 13 May: Manchester City win the title in thrilling style - Ian Herbert
Football: ‘After losing the title in the cruellest way, Ferguson stood firm’ 13 May: United are denied the title in heart-breaking style Martin Hardy
Olympics: ‘Nobody personified it more than Hoy, the ultimate sportsman’ 27 July: Hoy leads out Team GB at the Games opening ceremony - Robin Scott-Elliot
Football: ‘An hour later Theo Walcott was a hero – given a standing ovation’ 26 February: Theo Walcott turns the jeers to cheers to steer Arsenal to derby victory - Glenn Moore
Golf: ‘This was it. The moment that would decide the Ryder Cup. A 10-footer for glory ... Get in!’ 30 September: Europe claim Ryder Cup in thrilling fashion - Kevin Garside
Boxing: ‘The fight was terrific from the first bell. It had urgency, nastiness' 14 July: David Haye v Dereck “Del Boy” Chisora - Steve Bunce
Tennis: ‘After Murray won he staggered in a daze, then held his head in his hands’ 11 September: Andy Murray ends Britain’s wait for a major - Paul Newman
Football: ‘That night Spain played thrilling, bold, beautiful football’ 1 July: Beautiful Spain smash Italy in the Euro 2012 final - Jack Pitt-Brooke
Formula One: ‘Kimi’s Lotus win was F1’s most romantic result’ 4 November: Kimi Raikkonen zooms to victory in Abu Dhabi - David Tremayne
Racing: ‘Frankel enlarged life’s comfort zone for us all’ 22 August: Juddmonte International Stakes; Frankel finally goes the full distance - Chris McGrath
Cricket: ‘A sweep for three and Cook had broken a 73-year-old landmark’ 6 December: Alastair Cook breaks England century record - Stephen Brenkley
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