Iniesta, referee break Chelsea hearts

LONDON: Andres Iniesta scored one of the most dramatic goals in Champions League history on Wednesday to sink Chelsea and send 10-man Barcelona into a Champions League final showdown with Manchester United.

Three minutes into injury time in the second leg that Chelsea had completely dominated, the Spain midfielder latched on to a pass from Lionel Messi and lashed an unstoppable shot spinning into the top corner of the net. That was enough to cancel out Michael Essien’s even more stunning ninth-minute strike for Chelsea, level the aggregate score at 1-1 and send the Catalans to Rome on the away goals rule after an encounter that will be remembered for the erratic refereeing of Tom Ovrebo.

After a goalless first leg in the Nou Camp, Barcelona found themselves outplayed in what was, until the cruel final minutes, a one-sided Stamford Bridge encounter. Ovrebo was wrong to send Barca’s Eric Abidal off with just over 20 minutes left for what he thought was a foul on Nicolas Anelka. But the Norwegian official’s performance hit Chelsea far harder with Guus Hiddink’s side denied what appeared to be at least two stonewall penalties on a night that ended with him being escorted off the pitch under the protection of Chelsea stewards alarmed by Didier Drogba’s attempts to confront him.

Chelsea needed only eight minutes to produce the perfect riposte with a goal that breathtakingly demonstrated that the Catalans do not enjoy a monopoly on technical excellence. Frank Lampard’s chip was deflected by Toure into Essien’s path and the Ghanaian unleashed a left-foot volley that rattled into the net.

Even after falling behind, Barca offered little in terms of real penetration. Daniel Alves was only narrowly off target with a 40-yard free-kick but he was also extremely fortunate not to concede a penalty in a wrestling match with Florent Malouda. Drogba’s shot from the tight-angled free-kick yielded a corner that produced another chance, John Terry directing his header inches wide. Moments earlier, Drogba had been thwarted by Victor Valdes’s speed off his line and when Lampard released the striker once more shortly afterwards, Chelsea appeals for Abidal’s robust challenge to be penalised went unheeded.

Ovrebo failed to spot a blatant foul by Toure on Drogba. But the Norwegian official more than compensated 10 minutes later when he adjuged Abidal to have tripped Anelka as he raced goalwards in pursuit of Drogba’s flick. TV replays suggested Anelka had contrived to trip himself and Barca had been unfairly condemned to playing for more than 20 minutes with 10 men. They made enough of a fight of it to have the home supporters biting their nails but Chelsea had further reason for grievance when Anelka’s flick caught the outstretched arm of Gerard Pique inside the box. Again, Ovrebo waved the penalty appeals away and Chelsea paid the price when Petr Cech was left with no chance by Iniesta’s strike.