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Friday, May 8, 2009

Barca makes CL final on late goal

LONDON (AP) Barcelona's players were overjoyed. Chelsea's were angry.

News photo
Up in the air: Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka (right) vies for the ball with Barcelona's Yay Toure in their Champions League semifinal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Barca advancing on the away-goals rule. AP PHOTO

The Spanish leader advanced to the European Champions League final against Manchester United in dramatic fashion, tying Chelsea 1-1 Wednesday night when Andres Iniesta scored in the third minute of second-half injury time.

"We showed a lot of bravery and created a threat until right up to the end," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said.

Michael Essien scored on a 20-meter shot in the ninth minute for Chelsea, which lost last year's final to Manchester United on penalty kicks.

But Iniesta beat goalkeeper Petr Cech after collecting a ball from Lionel Messi and tied the aggregate 1-1 in the home-and-home, total-goals semifinal.

Barcelona, which finished a man short following Eric Abidal's ejection in the 66th minute, advanced because of a 1-0 advantage in away goals.

Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-1 on Tuesday night in the second leg of their semifinal and will try to win the title for the fourth time when it meets Barcelona on May 27 at Rome, following victories in 1968, 1999 and last year. Barcelona won Europe's top club soccer crown in 1992 and 2006.

Chelsea players surrounded Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo after the final whistle at Stamford Bridge, angry they weren't awarded at least two penalty kicks — one for a free kick he gave outside the penalty area after a foul that was within, the other for a hand ball that wasn't called against Samuel Eto'o when he blocked a shot with his arm.

Didier Drogba, who had gone down twice inside the area, was pulled away from the official by Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink.

"Disgrace," Drogba shouted at a television camera.

"There is an overall feeling of being robbed, injustice," Hiddink said. "That's why the players were so hot and angry, and I could understand the emotion of them. If you have seen three or four situations waved away, then it's the worst I have seen. At this moment I have to think if I have seen worse."

Hiddink came to the postgame news conference with notes of the penalties that never were and clutching a DVD of a match he will struggle to watch again.

"It's not just one decision in doubt, but it's several not-made decisions," Hiddink said. "In big games like this you need top-notch referees who have had big experience in the leagues of Spain, Italy, England and Germany."

Even Barcelona defender Gerard Pique acknowledged a ball struck him when under pressure from Nicolas Anelka in the closing minutes.

Barcelona was without Thierry Henry, who didn't dress because of a knee injury.

Abidal and Daniel Alves (second yellow card) are suspended for the final.

Carles Puyol will return for the final from a suspension, and Barcelona hopes defender Rafael Marquez can bounce back from a knee injury.

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