The Chelsea captain's sense of Champions League disappointment will be prolonged after his sending off
John Terry will have felt the boom break from above, the foundations of this stadium rocking as Catalonia rose in celebration to mark Andrés Iniesta's second for the hosts and it can only have prompted his mood to plummet even further. Lost in his thoughts back in the dressing room, his misery must have felt complete. The script he had envisaged had him as captain courageous leading his team against all the odds to Munich, not helpless, culpable and cast prematurely from the fray. This triumph, for once, would be sealed in his absence.
Chelsea's progress to Munich feels staggering enough before it is even acknowledged that they performed here for 53 minutes against the best attacking team in the world without a first‑choice centre‑half and with Terry absent and in disgrace. He had appeared to transform mission improbable into mission impossible by losing his head in the midst of a frantic ten-minute period just before the interval.
Play had been meandering away towards the flank when Terry, mystifyingly, kneed Alexis Sánchez in the back. The reaction was theatrical – perhaps no more so than some of Didier Drogba's back at Stamford Bridge – but the offence was clear enough. Whether there had been provocation in the buildup felt moot. This was an 85th Champions League appearance for the centre-half, yet his reaction smacked only of naivety.
The referee, Cuneyt Cakir, did not appear to have spotted the incident, coming as it did off the ball, but his assistant flagged at once. For their part, the visitors' management team were perplexed and forced to ask one of the touchline broadcasters what had prompted the dismissal while the 31-year-old was trudging back towards the tunnel to a deafening chorus of whistles from above.
"I did not deliberately strike the player," insisted Terry to the touchline reporter immediately after the incident. That felt unsatisfactory and, having viewed replays and seen his side survive, a more proper apology was duly issued post-match. "I've seen the replay and it does look bad," he said. "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 [know] I'm not that type of player. I feel I've let the lads down, but they've performed brilliantly. I've apologised to them and I want to apologise to the fans as well."
His own numbing sense of disappointment will be prolonged. The Champions League has been cruel on the centre-half. Memories of his penalty miss back in Moscow in 2008, when the trophy was so tantalisingly close, still haunt him. This was to be his chance to make amends – an exorcism of sorts – and lead his club to its first triumph in this competition. As it is, his team-mates will travel to Munich and take on Bayern Munich or José Mourinho's Real Madrid without him. He will be there but not where Chelsea need him most, excelling as he had done in the first leg of this semi-final at Stamford Bridge, and that will leave him pained.
There will be no escaping the realisation, too, that his own folly has denied him that opportunity. Danny Mills, the former England full-back working as a commentator here, was kindest with his assessment that the foul had merely been "old fashioned centre-half play", but that, too, felt dated.
Terry has had plenty of problems off the pitch over his career, with his trial for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand to begin on 9 July, but he has tended to inspire his team-mates on the pitch. This was almost out of character.
"At this level of football, I don't think I have ever seen anything so stupid in my life," said the former England midfielder Jamie Redknapp. "He's the captain, they've already lost Gary Cahill … he should be there leading by example. How on earth did he think he was going to get away with that?"
It was all the more unfathomable when put into the context of the evening. Cahill had damaged a hamstring in the opening exchanges and eventually departed after only 12 minutes to be replaced by José Bosingwa. The Portuguese slipped in at right-back, forcing Branislav Ivanovic alongside Terry at centre-half, though Chelsea immediately felt more vulnerable. There was little surprise that Sergio Busquets's opening goal was a result of Dani Alves slipping Isaac Cuenca into space down Barça's left to square across the area. There was vulnerability where the Premier League club had previously offered only defiance.
That they went on to survive everything from a disallowed goals to a penalty miss via an attempt against the woodwork and progress with two full-backs filling in at centre-half and even Didier Drogba operating at left-back for long periods felt remarkable. In the days ahead, Roberto Di Matteo will wonder what bodies remain available for the showpiece to come. Cahill's hamstring will need an assessment but Terry will be joined by Ramires, Ivanovic and Raul Meireles in missing the final through suspension. That latter trio deserved considerably better for their efforts on Tuesday night. The same cannot be said for Terry, though he more than anyone will be aware of that much.