London – Chelsea's remarkable passage through to the final of the Champions League was greeted with astonishment and delight in equal measure by the British media on Wednesday.
The London club's 2-2 draw in Barcelona secured an 3-2 aggregate triumph that had seemed hugely unlikely when they trailed 2-0 late in the first half and with only 10 men after the sending-off of captain John Terry.
But goals from Ramires and then in injury time, from Fernando Torres, at the Camp Nou stadium set up a final against the winner of the second semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
“Can Nou believe it?” roared The Sun, while The Mirror went with “Blue Heaven”, adding: “It could not happen. Simply could not happen.
“Not against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. Not playing for nearly an hour with 10 men against the greatest team on the planet.
“But somehow, on a night that transcended belief, turned everything we are supposed to know on its head, it did.”
Former Chelsea, Everton and Scotland winger Pat Nevin, now a pundit, said it was “right up there” as one of the most memorable European nights.
“I am sure some Liverpool fans will say a certain final (in 2005), when they came from 3-0 down at half-time to win, was the best,” Nevin told BBC Radio 4.
“But last night's match had everything. It was incredible.”
His thoughts were echoed by Chelsea's interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, who is now odds-on to get the job permanently.
“We were playing the best team in the world – they're amazing – and we were up against all the difficulties you could imagine in any football match,” the Italian said.
“We seemed always to find some reserves from somewhere, playing against the odds. We just showed a lot of desire to reach the final and go through.
“We had a little bit of luck as well, which we needed. But to win the trophy, you need that. We've had a difficult season but we seem to always get something special out when we need to. I think that's part of the DNA of these players. It's quite incredible.”
Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, one of his side's star performers on the night, said it was “one of the finest moments I have felt in a Chelsea shirt”.
He added: “I know people want to see beautiful football, but to play for 50 minutes with 10 men and to be 2-0 down here and to perform like that, what spirit. Unbelievable.”
The sending-off of Terry for a mindless knee in the back of Alexis Sanchez could have cost Chelsea dear.
The captain will now miss the final, along with Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles, who all picked up yellow cards on the night.
But Di Matteo refused to blame Terry for an indiscretion he only apologised for after seeing a damning television replay.
“He's a fantastic leader of this group,” Di Matteo said. “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.”
“We're all human beings. We're under a lot of pressure as players.” – Sapa-dpa