Torres sends Chelsea into final after Terry red card shame


JUBILANT manager Roberto di Matteo marvelled at Chelsea’s “special DNA” after the 10-man Londoners beat Barcelona to reach the Champions League final, thanks to a stoppage-time goal by £50m misfit Fernando Torres.

The Blues looked doomed to a heavy defeat when captain John Terry was dismissed for an off-the-ball foul and the holders scored twice, through Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, late in the first half.

But Ramires’ wondrous lob put Chelsea ahead on away goals and the visitors saw Barca’s Lionel Messi miss a penalty before the much-maligned Torres sealed a famous win – and paid back a huge swathe of his British record transfer fee.

A place in next year’s competition and the approximate £40m windfall it entails will be theirs despite a poor Premier League season if they can triumph in their second final appearance in five seasons

To do so they may have to defeat ex-Blues boss Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, but that they are just 90 minutes from doing so testifies to Di Matteo’s tremendous galvanising of a recently rudderless squad.

“It is an incredible achievement by this group of players. A lot of people had written us off but the players showed their character. We didn’t expect to play with 10 men so it was even more difficult than expected,” said the caretaker coach.

“Barcelona are a great team with fantastic players but we showed what we are made of. We’ve had a difficult season and we seem to always get something special out when we need to. That’s part of the DNA of these players.”

Di Matteo refused to criticise Terry, who later apologised to team-mates and fans for his sending off, although he insisted that despite his clash with Alexis Sanchez “looking bad”, he had not “intentionally hurt” him.

It was a night of extraordinary drama marred only by suspensions incurred by Terry, Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles, which will keep the quartet out of the Munich showpiece on 19 May.

Despite their 1-0 first-leg lead, Chelsea started the evening as underdogs against a Barca side who had scored 168 already this season, and a long night loomed when Ashley Cole cleared off the line in the opening moments.

Blues nerves frayed when centre-back Gary Cahill hobbled off injured and spirits sank further when Busquets tapped in after Isaac Cuenca had drawn Petr Cech and squared across goal.

It was to get worse. Terry took leave of his senses and kneed Alexis from behind off the ball, earning a straight red card, and Iniesta swiftly punished the 10 men by caressing home Messi’s through-ball.

Yet no sooner had Chelsea heads dropped than Frank Lampard found Ramires galloping beyond a dozing defence and the Brazilian finished with an outrageous chip of which Messi himself would be proud.

Barca and Messi, still goalless against the Blues, squandered the chance to reclaim the advantage right after half-time when his penalty, for Didier Drogba’s trip on Cesc Fabregas, hit the bar.

It was just the fillip the visitors needed and, after 40 more minutes of sheer defiance, an unmarked Torres darted onto Ashley Cole’s clearance and rounded Victor Valdes for the ultimate in cathartic goals.