No travesty… Chelsea's defeat of Barcelona was beyond triumph
21:50 GMT, 25 April 2012
Travesty or triumph, asked the radio phone-in. One would think we could tell the difference by now. For the record, it was triumph.
A travesty is the fate of Branislav Ivanovic, who will miss the final, booked for dissent, for complaining about an opponent's dive.
A travesty was what happened to Chelsea against Barcelona in 2009, when the decisions of a refereeing incompetent, Tom Henning Ovrebo, decided their fate in the semi-final second leg. To have several worthy penalty appeals disregarded is a travesty.
Highs and lows: Ivanovic, who will miss the final, and his team-mates celebrate
their remarkable progress
To defeat Barcelona over two legs, and to match them on one incredible night, with 10 men and no central defenders for the majority of the game, is a triumph.
At the Nou Camp, Chelsea went beyond: beyond expectation, beyond imagination, beyond what was believed possible given the events of the night.
Yet Chelsea won for the most basic sporting reasons. They took their chances at a far more efficient ratio. They defended better. Their tactical plan withstood its sternest test. And, yes, they rode their luck, too. Every winner must at some stage. Nothing is ever perfect.
To be Frank: Lampard and co celebrate Torres' late goal which ensured Chelsea's place in the Champions League final
In each victory there will be a moment when the narrative could change and the tables turn. But missing a penalty isn't luck: it's a technical malfunction. And making a great save isn't luck, either. It's the reason Chelsea bought Petr Cech, one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world.
As for hitting a post, or the bar, must we really go through this once more There is wood, there is space, then there is wood again. The aim is to get the ball in the large area between the two lengths of wood. Failing to achieve this is not about luck either. It is the reason footballers practise.
You think the rest of football has not been trying to do what Chelsea did at the Nou Camp for the best part of five years Manchester United have not been able of late; nor Arsenal. All those armchair coaches and pundits who sneer at Chelsea's lack of ambition would not know where to start given the same task.
All smiles: Chelsea deserve their place in the Champions League final after seeing off Barcelona over two legs
If it was so easy to concede possession and play on the counter attack against the greatest team in the world for three hours, every manager would marshal his players that way, win, and Barcelona would not be regarded as this pinnacle of excellence, this whirlwind of ability and fantasy.
If Barcelona were so comfortably negated just by sticking a few men behind the ball, phrases like tiki-taka and the passing carousel would not have passed into football's lexicon and Lionel Messi would not draw comparison with the all-time greats.
Barcelona's little gem of inspiration is not talked of in the same breath as Pele and Diego Maradona because he is stoppable; quite the opposite. Barcelona have redefined football in the 21st century. They genuinely are more than a football club right now. Chelsea did not beat 11 players; they defeated a philosophy, a phenomenon.
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So why so grudgeful Why are so many denouncing Chelsea's success as a victory for anti-football A degree of rivalry and jealousy, obviously.
As the modern game becomes ever more entrenched in club loyalty, so the idea of putting aside differences to support the sole English club left in Europe has withered.
Sir Alex Ferguson believed the majority of neutral fans wanted Manchester United to lose their European finals and while he was certainly using the idea as motivation for his players, he also had a point.
Feeling the strain: Guardiola's Barcelona had no answer for Chelsea's tactical brilliance
Older supporters still cheer on the last Englishmen standing, but times have changed. There is a new generation conditioned to despise all but their own and this – coupled with the fact Barcelona's ethos makes them every fan's second team – meant Chelsea's progress was a bitter pill for some.
Perhaps, too, it is hard for the neutral to buy into the idea of Chelsea as underdogs, deserving of our sympathetic support. We do not instinctively root for them out of sentimentality, as we do an inferior team in the FA Cup. This is a very modern superclub, with a Russian oligarch owner, his wealth measured in billions and a submarine to guard his yacht.
The players are symbols of power and influence, too. International figures, multi-millionaires including several serial controversialists, they are men who divide opinion and dominate news agendas; the epitome of the celebrity sports star.
Fighting back: Ramires scored shortly before the interval to deny Barca a 2-0 lead at half-time
The transfer budget is huge, the club politics often poisonous. To then be asked to indulge this collective as one would Burton Albion, defending for their lives against Manchester United, is maybe a stretch too far.
“Older supporters still cheer on the last Englishmen standing, but times have changed”
Our instincts tell us that Chelsea should be able to compete with Barcelona on equal terms, and many resent that they refuse to accept this challenge. Yet neither do Real Madrid. Neither do the many bigger and greater clubs that have been among Europe's elite for decades.
We must accept that what this Barcelona team represents is truly exceptional and the gauntlet thrown at Chelsea's feet therefore unique.
It is not the same as Arsenal playing negatively in the FA Cup final against Manchester United in 2005. The opponents that day were equals.
Battle: Fabregas, seen here confronting Lampard, admitted Chelsea deserved to go through
Whatever recent results indicate – and it is now seven games between the clubs since the last Catalan victory – nobody would say that of Chelsea and Barcelona. And no club plays Barcelona at their game and lives to tell the tale. Not even the lovely Arsenal.
Barcelona insist on being handled differently, and victory is invariably only achieved at cost. Certain principles must be sacrificed and compromises made. Barcelona demand to be considered in isolation.
For Chelsea on Tuesday, that meant surrendering the space on the flanks, regrouping inside imaginary tramlines running straight upfield from the corners of the penalty area.
Chelsea let Barcelona have the ball wide, knowing they would rarely cross, and instead protected the central area directly around their goal.
Reduced to 10 men, even this game-plan had to be augmented by simple do-or-die resistance, but then to see the fantastic end product diminished as a travesty greatly undervalues its intelligence.
Sport fascinates because, like history, it is pitted with moments of missed opportunity or mighty reversals of expectation. If every favourite wins, if pure technique is all, where is the enchantment
Chelsea's performance in Barcelona was a triumph because it transcended our expectations of what a contest should be. Sometimes it is not about having the best players, or the most beautiful ideals; sometimes it is about that which cannot be quantified: desire, inner strength, belief and, yes, good fortune, too.
So does that mean Chelsea got lucky No, not really. You cannot be lucky for three hours against Barcelona. Not without travelling beyond.