There was to be a late twist in the tale at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea entertained Barcelona in a crucial Champions League semi-final second leg.
Chelsea 1 Barcelona 1
Having drawn a blank at the Nou Camp a week prior with a 0-0 stalemate, the Blues headed into a home second leg against Barcelona feeling full of optimism they could reach a second consecutive Champions League final.
With Manchester United already through after an aggregate win over Arsenal, there was hope of an all-English final in Rome.
The majority of the West London crowd were sent into pandemonium with just under 10 minutes gone. Frank Lampard had a pass only partially cleared, allowing Michael Essien to steam onto the loose ball with a thunderbolt that left Victor Valdes stranded as the ball cannoned in off the bar.
Barcelona responded in typical Pep fashion; refusing to abandon their quick passing play, while their opponents were proving to be far more effective in possession.
Chelsea felt they should have had a penalty too, after Florent Malouda was dragged down by Dani Alves, but the referee Tom Ovrebo adjudged the infringement to have taken place outside the box.
Didier Drogba was next to be subject of a penalty appeal when Eric Abidal pulled the Ivorian back – again the penalty appeals were denied.
Yaya Toure then collided with Drogba inside the area in the second half, though the current Manchester City man appeared to get a touch on the ball.
Ovrebo was in action again 10 minutes from time when Pique handled under pressure from Anelka but once again the referee was in no mood to award a spot kick.
The game entered the late stages finely poised, as the BBC recall.
“As the game entered the final minutes of stoppage time, the one moment of magic Chelsea feared from this gifted Barcelona side arrived to steal their dreams of a second successive final away from them at the last gasp.”
Deep into stoppage time Hiddink’s men had their dreams crushed.
Andres Iniesta received the ball 20 yards out, sending a rising drive into the top corner past Petr Cech to spark wild scenes amongst the players and travelling fans.
That was not the end of the drama however, as Chelsea had one more penalty appeal when Michel Ballack’s strike hit the arm of Seydou Keita. It was not to be.
The Guardian described the frantic scenes at the final whistle.
“Terry leads a Chelsea charge over to the ref, who was disgraceful. But that shouldn’t deflect attention from the fact that tactical genius Guss Hiddink’s masterplan was to take off his most effective striker, and replace him with a defensive midfielder, against 10 men. Barca’s scored with their only shot on target; the final will probably be more entertaining than a United-Chelsea one would have been.”
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Lampard, Essien, Ballack, Anelka, Drogba, Malouda. Substitutes: Hilario, Ivanovic, Di Santo, Mikel, Kalou, Mancienne, Belletti.
Goals: Essien 9.
Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Toure Yaya, Pique, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Messi, Eto’o, Iniesta. Substitutes: Pinto, Caceres, Hleb, Pedrito, Gudjohnsen, Bojan, Sylvinho.
Sent Off: Abidal (66).
Goals: Iniesta 90.
Guus Hiddink was furious that his team did not get the decisions on the night.
“We are so disappointed. There are two issues. We could have and should have scored in some open situations. Of course we talk a lot about the not-given penalties. There was the shirt-pulling on Didier. Ok, we had the Henry-situation in Barcelona but we had three others here. I won’t say what the boys feel…OK, they feel it was an injustice.
“If you have seen clearly the one ball on Pique, on a reflex the arm is going up. If he is blocked by not seeing it, then there is also an assistant referee.”
The contrast in emotions was compounded by former Manchester United man Gerard Pique.
“At one point in the game it was really hard when we had 10 men and they were attacking. But finally in the last minute we scored a goal and I have no words to describe how happy the team is at this moment.”