JOHN TERRY APOLOGISES OVER DISMISSAL
Chelsea captain John Terry apologised to his team-mates for "letting them down" after being sent off in the first half of the second leg 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 Roberto Di Matteo refused to condemn Terry.
The Italian said: "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.
"It's an incredible achievement by this group of players. 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."
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 on Sky Sports 2. "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."
Looking ahead to the May 19 final against Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid or Bayern Munich - who meet in their semi-final second leg on Wednesday night at the Bernabeu, the England international said: "I don't even want to think about that yet. They're two very, very good teams. It could go either way.
"Of course Chelsea people have a lot of love and respect for Jose for what he's done here. But we're just delighted. No-one expected us to go through and we're in that final."
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.
"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," he 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."
Ashley Cole hailed his team's self-belief.
As well as Terry's red card, the visitors were also disrupted by the loss of Gary Cahill through injury.
Cole said on Sky Sports 2: "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."
Defender Branislav Ivanovic, who will miss next month's final in Munich along with Terry, Ramires and Raul Meireles after a late yellow card, added: "It was a very difficult game. We deserved to qualify."
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