On Wednesday evening, Barca in a rare moment of self doubt, looked back to contemplate an axiom that applies to all except a chosen few. Football is indeed a cruel sport.
We give kudos to Didier Drogba's clinical strike and a defense that held up against the Blaugrana waves that marauded the Chelsea third for immense portions of the game. But lets put this victory into perspective. No one in their right mind would discount factoring lady luck as part of Chelsea's perfect game plan. It had to be that way.
Chelsea had to score from one of its rare chances at goal. Check.
Chelsea had to have Petr Cech come up with spectacular saves. Check (pun intended)
Chelsea would be rescued by goal line saves and the goal structure. Check.
Barca had to have the sort of game against Milan at the San Siro. Check.
Alexis Sanchez was made to rue his chance when the crossbar came in the way of his chip over Cech. Ashley Cole cleared Fabregas's shot before it crossed the line. Cech denied Fabregas, Adriano, and Messi. And late in added time Pedro had his opportunity denied by the upright. This would in all probability ended on a 4-1 advantage. Instead Barca now have to return to Camp Nou to end the aberration.
Leo Messi did everything humanly possible to manufacture a goal through proxy but his supporting cast of actors could not finish. Yet, in one huge cruel stroke, he became responsible for the one goal that made all the difference as Frank Lampard swiped the ball from under his feet to send Ramires soaring down the left. It all happened in a nano second as Puyol, Mascherano, and Adriano were left adrift when Drogba arrived to meet the Brazilian's low cross.
When we talk of the old brigade rising to the occasion, its always Lampard, Terry, Cole, and Drogba. Left out of that equation, Cech. He is the original war horse, an unmistakable figure wearing that Knute Rockne gridiron head gear. He has been on the receiving end of a lot of fan flak but yesterday, he was an obdurate sentinel keeping Chelsea's hopes alive.
Can Chelsea pull it off at the Camp Nou? A 0-0, 1-1, and even a 2-1 Barca result puts them into the final. They fought Barca to a standstill four years ago with the same personnel on the pitch. Mourinho parked the bus as ten men got behind the ball. That is one way to do it.