PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

Tonight’s game showed just how cruel football can be sometimes. FC Barcelona, who shot no fewer than 23 times, twice onto the post, as also happened in the first leg, have been knocked out of the Champions League. But they go out with their heads held high, having remained faithful to their brave, attacking style, and almost incomprehensively being unrewarded for their efforts. There was nothing to criticise about Barça tonight, but luck simply was not on their side.

And that was despite things getting off to a far better start than anybody could have wished for. Busquets and Iniesta scored and Terry was sent off. It had taken just 43 minutes for Barça to turn the tie back into their favour. But a shock goal from Ramires meant that Barça still had some work to do in the second half. Messi hit the post twice, once from the penalty spot, and the last 45 minutes were a monologue as FCB tried and tried, and tried again, to find their way through the ten remaining men that Chelsea had camped deep in their own half. The goal just didn’t want to come, and then, inexplicably, Fernando Torres ran half the length of the pitch on his own before rounding Valdés to slot home the goal that sentenced the tie. Di Matteo’s side barely had any chances in the entire game, but made the very most of the few they did.

The upshot of it all is that the defending champions are out of the competition despite demonstrating that they are a far superior side to Chelsea. But if you don’t take your chances, you pay the price, and it is for that reason alone that Barcelona will not be going to Munich.

Stop-start beginning

Guardiola made as many as four changes to the side that started the clásico. He opted for a three-man defence of Mascherano, Piqué and Puyol, without out-and-out full backs. And it was the respective team’s centre backs that were the protagonists of the first few minutes of football. For Chelsea, Cahill was substituted by Bosingwa after just 11 minutes of play. A quarter of an hour later Piqué was replaced, by Alves, in the same position for FCB, after a brutal aerial clash involving himself, Valdés and Drogba left him momentarily stunned on the floor. So many interruptions were doing nothing to benefit Barcelona’s plans.

Busquets pulls the tie level

Whenever the ball was in play, events panned out almost identically to the way they did at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, with only Drogba in an advanced position, had little intention of doing anything other than defend, and left it to Barça to take the initiative, with Alexis the most active, especially when supplied by an energetic Cuenca on the right. And it was the latter who created the first goal of the night, following a corner kick, with an exquisite pass to Busquets. Everything was back level, and the Camp Nou started roaring.

Terry off

Shortly after his side went a goal down, Terry, in an off the ball incident, kneed Alexis in the back. It was a shockingly foolish action for a man of his experience, and cost him a red card and ultimately a place in the Munich final. With Cahill injured, Terry sent off and David Luiz already sidelined through injury, Chelsea were left without any natural centre backs. Their intention had clearly been to come to Barcelona and defend, and they were now condemned to doing so with a makeshift back four of Ramires, Ivanovic, Bosingwa and Cole. Five minutes later, Barça made them pay the price with a rapid counter attack that ended with Messi supplying an assist for Iniesta to make it 2-0. At that point, it looked like Barça would end up romping home. Munich was in sight.

But just like on Saturday against Madrid, when Cristiano Ronaldo responded almost immediately to Alexis’ goal, FC Barcelona were hit within in seconds of scoring themselves. Ramires managed to lose his marker and sent home a long-range chip to make it 2-1, and the away goal meant that Chelsea were, as things stood, heading for Munich again.

Messi misses penalty

The manic end to the first half carried over into the second. Within seconds, the referee was pointing to the penalty spot after Drogba brought down Cesc in the area. But Messi struck his spot-kick straight against the Chelsea bar. Moments later, an Alexis header skimmed wide of the post, and then a Cuenca effort was turned away by Chelsea keeper Cech. The onslaught on the Chelsea goal was constant, and Chelsea had withdrawn so intensely into their own area that even Drogba did his bit by playing at left back.

Everything was heading in one direction – that of Cech, who was simply outstanding this evening. But he was beaten by Alexis, who was caught offside by the very narrowest of margins, and shortly after Messi hit the post for the second time of the night. The ball just did not want to go in.

Torres, and game over

And incredible as it might seem, with Barça now sending everything they had forward in search of the elusive third goal, the ball somehow ended up in the path of late substitute Torres. The Spaniard ran solo across half the length of the pitch, dribbled the ball around Valdés, and scored the goal that ended any hope Barça had of appearing in the Munich final. Football can be so unfair sometimes.