UEFA Champions League: Barca shocks Chelsea to advance to final
Iniesta's injury-time equalizer secures 1-1 draw for Barcelona, sets up dream title match.
By ALLON SINAI
Barcelona will face Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome on May 27 after Andres Iniesta scored a stunning stoppage time goal to give his team a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea seemed destined to be heading towards a second straight final against United after Michael Essien scored in the ninth minute and Barcelona went down to 10 men in the 66th minute.
Barcelona controlled the possession throughout the match, but rarely threatened and until Iniesta came along didn't even register a single shot on target.
However, two minutes into injury time the magical midfielder sent a superb shot from the edge of the area into the roof of the net, giving the visitors a precious away goal and a place in the final after last week's first leg at the Camp Nou ended in a goalless draw.
Chelsea made a crucial early breakthrough, scoring in the ninth minute after Essien struck a ferocious volley from the edge of the area, giving Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes no chance.
Chelsea had the better chances in the rest of the match and also had several penalty calls turned down.
But just when it seemed as though the Blues were on their way to the final, Iniesta came up with an amazing strike and European soccer will have its dream final. It took Chelsea just nine minutes to score the precious opener.
Essien connected perfectly with the ball, releasing an unstoppable volley from the edge of the area with his left foot which no 'keeper in the world could save.
The hosts would come closer to scoring their second than Barcelona would to grabbing its first in the remainder of the first half, with Didier Drogba Chelsea's main threat.
In the 25th minute, the Ivory Coast striker struck a stinging free-kick from the tightest of angles, but Valdes was well placed and steered the ball clear with an instinctive save.
Barcelona dominated the possession, but it failed to seriously test goalkeeper Petr Cech and Guus Hiddink's men comfortably held on to their slender lead until the break.
Seven minutes after the interval, Drogba should have clinched the victory.
After a good team move, he found himself with only Valdes to beat, but his weak attempt was cleared by the Spaniard's right foot, keeping the visitors in the tie.
However, in the 66th minute Barca's hopes of turning the match around suffered a massive blow when defender Eric Abidal was shown a red card by the Norwegian referee.
The French defender clipped the heels of Chelsea's striker Nicolas Anelka and was sent off after the ref judged him to be the last man on defense.
Barca continued to attack with 10 men, but Cech wasn't bothered and Chelsea were in complete control. However, in the 92nd minute Lionel Messi layed the ball off for Iniesta and the diminutive midfielder sent a sensational left footed shot beyond Cech and booked Barcelona's place in the final.
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