On This Day | Barcelona's Andrés Iniesta sends Catalans past Chelsea
- Andrés Iniesta's eternal volley sent Barcelona through to the final of the UCL
- Chelsea, riding on Essien's volley, were hard done by poor refereeing
It was a tale of two long-rangers on this day 11 years ago as Chelsea hosted Barcelona in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final. The first leg ended 0-0 at the Nou Camp, and it was Stamford Bridge's turn to play host to Pep Guardiola's army. It is a day that is presumably still fresh in the minds of the Chelsea faithful across the globe but for all the wrong reasons.
Michael Essien gave Chelsea a dream start after unleashing a venomous volley on his weaker foot in the ninth minute, which flew past a helpless Victor Valdés. Frank Lampard's attempted cross ricocheted off Yaya Toure and fell kindly for Essien, who went on to send a looping volley into the Barcelona goal. Chelsea took the lead, and by the end of the game, the Blues should have been ahead by more than a goal.
However, fate had different ideas for the London club as what followed was a refereeing disaster-class of the highest order. Tom Henning Ovrebo was the man in charge of the big occasion on the day and turned down as many as four penalty appeals from the Blues, who went on to express their very evident displeasure at the end of the game.
Although they dominated the first half and didn't allow Barcelona to find their groove, these refereeing decisions hurt Chelsea's hopes of a second consecutive Champions League final.
Barcelona riding on the referee's erros
A handball appeal against a young Gerard Pique was a dubious decision that was ignored by Ovrebo, and so were another couple of decisions. Didier Drogba, in particular, had heated confrontations over denied penalty claims against fouls by Barcelona's Eric Abidal and Yaya Toure. Florent Malouda was on the receiving end of a tackle from Dani Alves which was seemingly inside the box but was deemed to be a free-kick by Overbo.
Barcelona then suffered a massive blow as the last man in defence, Eric Abidal, brought down Nicolas Anelka and was subsequently shown red, leaving Barcelona's hopes hanging by a thread.
After rebuffing attack after attack against a Chelsea side with the superior numerical advantage, Barcelona didn't give up. Having attracted three of Chelsea's defenders by himself, Lionel Messi dragged them away to find Andrés Iniesta just outside the box who timed his unmarked run to the edge of the area perfectly.
Iniesta struck the ball ever-so-sweetly with the outside of his right boot to send a curling effort that Petr Čech valiantly tried to save. Despite the towering keeper's efforts, the ball curled away from Čech and was enough to send Barcelona through to the final — and Stamford Bridge into a chaos.
The drama didn't end there as Michael Ballack tried to bring his side back into a game with a superbly-hit strike on goal deep into extra time, which was denied by Samuel Eto'o's hand — and unsurprisingly was waved away by Overbo. Ballack chased the referee to the other side of the pitch following this incident, but it was in vain as Barcelona would go on to reach the finals of the Champions League.
Overbo himself openly admitted the errors in judgment he made on the day. Speaking to Spanish outlet MARCA in 2018, he recalled the incident saying,
“It was not my best day, really.”
The former referee, who received death threats from furious Chelsea fans across the globe, went on to admit that he doesn't look back at that infamous performance in a positive light.
“But those mistakes can be committed by a referee, and sometimes a player or a coach. Some days you are not at the level you should be. But no, I can’t be proud of that performance."