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Late drama sends Barcelona through

BARCELONA snatched a place in the Champions League final on Wednesday when a last-gasp goal from Andres Iniesta earned it a 1-1 draw with Chelsea and victory on away goals.

Barcelona, trailing to a stunning early volley from Michael Essien and reduced to 10 men by Eric Abidal's sending-off, broke Chelsea hearts when Iniesta struck in the third minute of stoppage time with his team's first shot on target.

The reversal of fortunes at the very end of an intense semifinal second leg means Barcelona will play defending champion Manchester United in the Rome final on May 27.

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink congratulated Barcelona but said the refereeing was the worst he had ever seen.

"Of course players can make mistakes, coaches can mistakes and referees can make mistakes but that is all in the game," Hiddink said.

"But if you have seen three or four situations waved away then that is the worst refereeing I have seen."

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said afterwards: "We keep going, we are consistent and we showed a lot of strength and bravery and created the chance at the end."

Abidal, sent off in the 65th minute, will miss the final, as will Daniel Alves, who was booked on his birthday and will also be suspended.

Skipper Carles Puyol, suspended for this game, will be eligible for the final when United will bid to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain the European Cup.

Chelsea had been on its way to a second successive final against United, and a chance to avenge its defeat on penalties in Moscow, thanks to Essien's volley in the ninth minute.

It was so nearly enough and had the referee given one of several strong shouts for penalties it might have had the game wrapped up well before the late drama.

Hiddink claimed Florent Malouda was hauled down inside the penalty area by Alves when the referee gave Chelsea a free-kick outside the box and that the referee also ignored two blatant handballs as well as a shirt-pulling incident on Drogba.

Barcelona had plenty of possession but produced very little in front of goal. Chelsea was far more dangerous on the counter-attack.

Barcelona looked to be down and out after Abidal was sent off after appearing to trip Anelka as the Frenchman chased down a flick-on from Drogba. But with time running out and Chelsea dreaming of another final, the visitors struck to change the picture entirely.

Guardiola's team is now closer to becoming the first Spanish team to win the treble of Europe's top club competition and the domestic league and cup double.


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