Last-gasp goal validates purist approach

LONDON - With the clock on 93 minutes and Chelsea with one foot and more in the final Barcelona still had not managed a shot on goal in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Yet, right to the death they kept the faith, continuing to work the ball around with that mesmerising technique, and were rewarded with an Andres Iniesta strike that earned them a 1-1 draw, victory on away goals and a place in the final.

Barcelona, who complained about Chelsea's spoiling approach in the first leg, can now hold the game up as validation of their approach.

Incredibly, the team who have scored almost 150 goals this season, who hammered six past Real Madrid on Saturday, who boast some of the cream of the world's attacking talent, had not mustered a single shot on goal.

They were about to exit the Champions League on a 1-0 aggregate to an English team for the second successive season following last year's defeat at the same stage by Manchester United.

Down to 10 men, the home crowd celebrating, even the pass-masters of European football could have been forgiven if they had resorted to throwing long balls into the box.

They worked the ball out wide and when Michael Essien half-cleared to Lionel Messi, who had again been a peripheral figure in the game he was expected to stamp his mark on, the Argentine maestro did not panic.

With the whole ground expecting him to cut in and shoot he instead picked out Iniesta lurking on the edge of the box.

Iniesta had had more of the ball than just about anyone on the pitch but the probing, searching passes that unlock the best defences in Spain on a weekly basis failed to penetrate Chelsea's immaculately drilled rearguard.

This time, however, he did not think about the pass and instead unleashed a fierce shot the flew beyond the previously untroubled Petr Cech.

Just as in last year's European championship, when Spain were almost knocked out of the tournament by Italy's strangling tactics in a goalless quarter-final, Barcelona, with many of the same personnel, had continued to play it their way.

Spain reaped their reward, going on to pass their way to Europe's premier trophy, and Barcelona will hope to emulate them in the final against Manchester United.

"We tried to win the game, we tried to create," coach Pep Guardiola told a post-match news conference. "We didn't create so much and it was hard against a Chelsea team we expected to press up more.

"But I have a lot of faith in my team. We keep going, we are consistent. We had 25 minutes with 10 men and still Chelsea stayed back.

"We continued to try to score and carried that goal threat until the final minute."

The goal caused pandemonium inside Stamford Bridge. Members of the Barcelona bench jostled with Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink, both sets of fans were going crazy, for very different reasons.

After some chaotic substitutions and a last, desperate Chelsea assault, the final whistle sounded.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba seemed to think it was the signal to charge, as he raced to remonstrate furiously with Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.

After falling to the floor at the slightest of provocation during the match, there was no holding him back this time and he was