We now know that the Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola that won the unique treble of La Liga , Copa del Rey and UEFA Champions League in 2008/2009 would go on to dominate for years to come and arguably go down in history as the greatest team ever. With their miniature stars and tiki-taka style of play, the Catalans reinvented the world game, proving that brains can triumph over brawn on the football pitch. However, it is interesting to ponder whether or not Guardiola’s team would have won the phenomenal fourteen trophies in four years had Andres Iniesta not crashed in the injury time equaliser at Stamford Bridge in the 2009 Champions League semi-finals. That match , easily the most dramatic of that memorable campaign, was the catalyst for Barcelona’s domination in the years to come.
Barcelona came to London following a 0-0 stalemate in the first leg at the Nou Camp. Gus Hiddink’s Chelsea, who battled bravely in Spain to hang on, took the lead through a Michael Essien piledriver, sending Stamford Bridge in to delirium. Eric Abidal was sent off for the Catalans in the second half while Chelsea had four genuine penalty appeals turned down by the Norwegian referee Tom Henning Øvrebø. Barcelona, as always, were superior in possession but struggled to break the resilient Blues down as they failed to get a single shot on target. Until injury time that is.
Two minutes into injury time, Daniel Alves swung in a dangerous cross from the right which John Terry managed to head away but only into the feet of Samuel Eto’o. Not breaking kindly for him inside the box, the Cameroonian passed to Lionel Messi, who in turn laid the ball off to Iniesta, who was positioned just inside the “D”. Swinging at the ball with the outside of his right boot, the Spaniard’s shot arrowed its way past Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal. In doing so he had rescued Barcelona’s European campaign right at the death, levelling the scores and securing the tie on the away goals rule in the process.
Andres Iniesta wrote in his end of season diary Un Any Al Paradis – “I connected with that shot with the outside, not the inside or the tip of my boot, but right from my heart, with all my might”. The Catalan wrote himself into the Barca history books that night and the club would write itself into the European history books in the following few years.
Pundit Arena, Adam Davern.
Featured Image By Christopher Johnson (Andrés Iniesta) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.