Wednesday 25 April 2012
Chelsea defender Ashley Cole praised the spirit of his side after the Blues booked their place in the UEFA Champions League final following an incredible night in Barcelona.
The Blues looked to be heading out of the competition when they went two goals down, also having skipper John Terry sent off and losing fellow centre-half Gary Cahill to injury in the semi-final second leg.
But Chelsea rallied and produced one of the most courageous European performances in recent memory to end up drawing 2-2 on the night and winning the tie 3-2 on aggregate.
"At the end of the day we all believed. Not that many people did but we did as a group"
- Ashley Cole
"It's hard when you lose both centre-halves against a great team like that, but Branna [Branislav Ivanovic] and Bossie [Jose Bosingwa] moved around and were brilliant," said Cole.
"At the end of the day we all believed. Not that many people did but we did as a group.
"No-one thought we had a chance, we lost a few matches in the Premier League but we got together and we said we believed. We were lucky in spells but you can't beat that desire and fight that you saw out there.
"You have five or six players coming at you but we defended as a team, we got lucky and Petr [Cech] made some great saves."
Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta scored for Barcelona before Ramires put Chelsea ahead on away goals with an exquisite chip over Victor Valdes in first-half stoppage time.
The visitors withstood immense pressure in the second half, with Lionel Messi missing a penalty and hitting the post, before Chelsea sealed victory in the dying stages when Fernando Torres slotted home after rounding Valdes.
The goal sparked wild celebrations from the Chelsea players and travelling supporters, and goalkeeper Cech afterwards paid tribute to his side's never-say-die character.
"We showed great strength of mind and character not to lie down"
- Petr Cech
"We fought for 90 minutes in the first game, and after that to go 2-0 down, we did what we could and it's fantastic what we've done," he said.
"Everybody played 150% for the team, and to be fair we tried to survive, and we survived pretty well."
And Cech was impressed with the way his side did not give up after Busquets scored and Terry was dismissed in the space of two crazy first-half minutes.
"For many teams it would have been a killer but we showed great strength of mind and character not to lie down. We believed we just needed one more goal," added Cech.
"It was fantastic, we fought for our lives. They had chances and possession, everything, but we resisted and when I saw Fernando I thought 'that's it, we're going to make it'."
Chelsea will play either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final on 19th May in Munich, with their semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.