Iniesta puts Barcelona into final with injury-time stunner

May 7th, 2009 - 10:45 am ICT by IANS  

Chelsea London, May 7 (DPA) Ten-man Barcelona edged their way into the Champions League final late Wednesday night in the most dramatic manner, with Andres Iniesta scoring an injury-time goal to force a 1-1 draw away to Chelsea.
Barcelona were down to 10 men midway through the second half after Eric Abidal was harshly sent off after pulling down Nicolas Anelka.

The last-gasp goal puts Barca into the May 27 final against Manchester United on the away goals rule, since the first leg was a dull 0-0 draw in the Camp Nou last Tuesday.

Iniesta’s last-gasp leveller - Barca’s only shot on target all match - threw a blanket of silence over West London, but provoked noisy street celebrations back in Barcelona.

“It was a wonderful moment to score,” gasped a euphoric Iniesta at the end, “just when we needed a goal.”

Barca playmaker Xavi - who had an uncharacteristically quiet game - conceded that “we were a bit lucky tonight”, but pointed out that “they were unlucky to get a goalless draw in the first leg”.

Barca are still on course for a league, cup and Champions treble that no Spanish team has yet managed to achieve. They are seven points clear at the top of La Liga with just four games left, and face unfancied Athletic Bilbao in next week’s King’s Cup final.

Chelsea left the field protesting against Norwegian referee Tom Henning, who turned down four good home penalty claims, and none of them were in the mood to speak to the media.

Didier Drogba had to be prevented from assaulting Henning by his own team-mates, and could now face a lengthy UEFA suspension.

Barcelona defender Yaya Toure defended the referee. “The game today was very hard and very difficult because Chelsea is such a great team and it was a lot of work for the referee.

“I am very happy with this night, I think Barcelona played great football. Chelsea is a very strong team, they have good players like Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard is the best midfielder in Europe.

“The best team won today,” he said.

Barca actually turned in a dull display by their high standards - unlike in Saturday’s historic 6-2 thrashing of Real Madrid - but were saved by a moment of injury-time inspiration.

Samuel Eto’o controlled down the right and passed to Lionel Messi. The Argentine fed little Iniesta, who silenced Stamford Bridge by beating Peter Cech with an unstoppable high drive.

Barca went into the game without key defenders Carles Puyol and Rafa Marquez, and sorely missed the two veterans during an early assault from the hosts.

The Chelsea goal came after only 10 minutes. Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard put together a promising move down the left - and Essien set Stamford Bridge on fire with a spectacular left-foot volley which went in off the crossbar.

It was an even more staggering volley than the one by Zinedine Zidane that won the cup for Real against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002.

Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes kept the visitors in the game with sharp saves in the first half from Didier Drogba and John Terry, as Chelsea continued to dominate.

Barca looked brighter after half-time, but lacked the power and experience of the injured Thierry Henry.

In the Rome final Barca will be without Abidal and right-back Dani Alves, who picked up another yellow card.

Barca pressed manfully towards end, but lacked clarity in attack. Another United-Chelsea final seemed to be on the cards - until Iniesta silenced the home fans with the most important goal of his career.



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