BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 24: John Terry of Chelsea FC (L) reacts as he is shown a red card by referee Cuneyt Cakir during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final, second leg match between FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC at Camp Nou on April 24, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Chelsea dragged themselves into the final without their captain. They deserve their appearance in the final; John Terry deserves his place in the stands.
This piece is written in complete and deliberate ignorance of John Terry's self-defence. If you're into that, don't bother reading this.
Chelsea were brilliant. They had a plan. Whether this was it or not, something worked and they are, deservedly, in the final. Or, at least, most of them are. John Terry, captain, inspiration, etc., won't be there. But that's OK. He doesn't deserve to be. On the evidence of tonight, when Branislav Ivanovic and (AMAZINGLY) Jose Bosingwa were magnificent in keeping Lionel Messi and Barcelona at arm's length, Chelsea seem to be fine without him.
Probably that's not quite right. Probably they will miss Terry and, probably, Cristiano Ronaldo will make Bosingwa cry in the final. But that's not the point. With Terry, it never is. It is seldom Terry the player, but Terry the man, that's the point. That, for some reason, is the way he likes it. That's why he conducts interviews topless, but with the armband still adhered to his shiny bicep. That's why he's able to rejoice (and market himself) under the Brave JT moniker.
He wasn't brave tonight, though. He kneed his opponent from behind, which is cowardly whichever way you look at it, but it's particularly wimpy to do it on a football pitch, assuming impunity. And Cowardly JT let his teammates down. Because they won, somehow, the opprobrium will be less than that which met David Beckham's dismissal from England's World Cup second-round defeat by Argentina in 1998 (and inspired some sub-editor at the Mirror into penning the headline that "inspired" this one). But Terry deserves more. Beckham was dismissed in extra time, Terry after 40 minutes. Beckham was 23 and playing in his first major tournament. Terry is in his 30s and is Chelsea's captain. Beckham was (is) egotistical. Terry is egomanial. Possibly megalomaniacal.
On the other hand, and again because they won, Chelsea's story tonight (and on the 19th of May) is not about Terry. He'll be in the Munich stands, while on the pitch will be Petr Cech, who was magnificent. Ashley Cole, assured. Didier Drogba, inspirational. Fernando Torres, brave. Chelsea's other players were everything their captain wasn't. The nature of the situation (which, in part, he created) meant that other players were exposed. Ramires, Ivanovic and Raul Meireles were all booked -- a consequence, perhaps, of the overstretch created by their numerical disadvantage.
Chelsea, then, are in the final. And those that play in it deserve to do so. Some who can't deserve it, too. But one who won't deserves his exile. Ten proud lions; one stupid boy.
You can find all of our previous live coverage from the game in our Barcelona vs. Chelsea, 2012 UEFA Champions League StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.