Terry: I let Chelsea down24/04/2012 - 22:42:01
Chelsea captain John Terry apologised to his team-mates for "letting them down" after being sent off in the first half of his side's remarkable Champions League semi-final aggregate victory over Barcelona.
The 10-man visitors battled back from 2-0 down at the Nou Camp to draw 2-2 on the night and win 3-2 on aggregate to progress to the final - all after losing centre-back Terry for inexplicably kneeing Alexis Sanchez eight minutes before half-time.
After viewing a replay of the red-card incident, Terry said on Sky Sports 2: "Sanchez was darting in behind me. I've seen the replay and it does look bad.
"I'm not that type of player to intentionally hurt anyone. I've raised my knee, which I maybe shouldn't have done in hindsight. But hopefully people who know me as a person, as a player... I'm not that type of player.
"I'm disappointed but delighted for the lads. To come here and play the way they did and get the result they did with 10 men... I feel I've let them down. I've apologised to them and I want to apologise to the fans as well.
"At the time, I was bewildered because I was trying to protect myself a little bit, but looking at it on the replay, I've no complaints. I've let the lads down. They've performed brilliantly, so hopefully this doesn't take it away from the players.
"This is what this football club deserves. We deserve to be in the Champions League final. The boys were excellent and I hope the incident doesn't take away from how hard they worked."
Caretaker boss Di Matteo refused to condemn Terry for leaving his team a man down.
"He's fantastic leader of this group. He's the captain of our club. Everybody can make a mistake in life. We're just so happy that this group has managed to go to the final."
Asked if he was angry with his skipper, the Italian replied: "No, I'm not. We're all human beings. We're under a lot of pressure as players."
Barca peppered the visitors' goal throughout the semi-final second leg and deservedly took the lead through Sergio Busquets, who tapped home from close range.
Things got worse for the Blues less than two minutes later when Terry was sent off and Barca surged further ahead through Andres Iniesta, although Ramires clawed a goal back in first-half stoppage time with a deft chip.
Lionel Messi saw a penalty smash the bar shortly after the restart and later hit the post, but Chelsea somehow held out and Torres came off the bench to wrap up the aggregate victory late on.
"It's an incredible achievement by this group of players," Di Matteo said.
"A lot of people had written us off and we showed again what kind of character these players have.
"We didn't expect to play with 10 men and we knew it was going to be tough. It was even more difficult than we expected.
"They're a great team, with some fantastic players. We just showed what we're made of."
Didier Drogba - whose goal in the first leg at Stamford Bridge was the cornerstone of the Blues' aggregate victory - admitted that the loss of several key players had come as a blow.
As well as Terry's automatic suspension for his red card, the Blues will also be without Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles for the May 19 showpiece after all picked up bookings tonight.
"We are happy that we qualified, but at the same time we keep our feet on the ground because our best players are not going to be there for the final," Drogba told Sky Sports 2.
Asked whether the result was hard to take in after the situation had looked so bleak in the first half, Drogba said: "I believe it. We came here to qualify.
"We defended well and we tried to score with the chances we had."
Asked about his appetite for success in the final in what could be his final season at Chelsea, Drogba said: "My desire is the same every year when I play the Champions League. I always want to win.
"I'm very happy to be in the final again. Now we have to win it."
Chelsea left-back Ashley Cole hailed his team's self-belief in coming back from the loss of both Terry and fellow centre-back Gary Cahill, who was forced off early on with an injury.
Cole said: "When you lose quality centre-halves like that against a great team, it's going to be hard.
"But we all believed. Not many people did but we did as a group of players, and that's what happened.
"It's hard, but we defended well as a team, got a bit lucky, and Petr (Cech) made some good saves.
"Three to four months ago no one thought we had a chance. We lost a few games in the Premier League but we always believed and knew we were good enough to be here. You can't beat that desire and fight that you saw out there today."
Ivanovic, who will miss next month's final after his late yellow card, added: "It was a very difficult game. We deserved to qualify."
Goalkeeper Petr Cech said: "We scored the away goal - that was key. Twice we scored goals. We fought for 90 minutes in the first game and in this game when it was even worse and we were down to 10 men, 2-0 down.
"We did what we could. It was fantastic and we got our reward. We tried to survive and we survived pretty well."
Midfielder Frank Lampard savoured the result as one of the most special of his 11 years with the west London club.
"It's one of the finest moments I've felt in a Chelsea shirt," he said.
"It was backs to the wall. I know we dug in and people want to see beautiful football, but with 10 men for 50-odd minutes or whatever it was, to perform like that was unbelievable.
"That clock wasn't half slow in the second half! You know they're liable at any moment because of the players they've got in their team but there's a determination about us and you get what you deserve.
"We were all in it together and we dug in."
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