The Spanish press were this morning reflecting on Barcelona's shock exit from the Champions League against Chelsea, pointing out the Catalans' bad luck and the "three darkest days" of coach Pep Guardiola's four-year reign.
The holders looked to be on course to overturn their 1-0 semi-final first-leg deficit when they took a 2-0 lead on the night through Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, and found themselves playing against 10 men for over 50 minutes following the dismissal of Blues captain John Terry for kneeing Alexis Sanchez.
But Roberto Di Matteo's side grabbed a crucial away goal on the stroke of half-time through Ramires and then, after Barca talisman Lionel Messi had crashed a penalty against the bar and another shot against the post, ensured their progress as Fernando Torres' stoppage-time strike earned the visitors a stunning 3-2 aggregate win.
Madrid-based Marca revelled in Barca's failure, declaring: 'Nightmare at the Camp Nou'. Their editorial elaborated with: 'CHAMPION is eliminated by 10 MEN OF CHELSEA', and 'Barcelona is out of La Liga and the Champions League after the three darkest days of the Guardiola era'.
Real Madrid's 2-1 victory at the home of their arch rivals on Saturday night moved Jose Mourinho's side seven points clear the Primera Division summit with four games remaining.
El Mundo labelled last night's result: 'Mortal blow at the Camp Nou' and questioned: 'Is this the end of the victorious cycle?'
Barcelona-based Sport took a more sympathetic view, headlining: 'Football punishes Barca'.
It read: 'Unjust, cruel, horrible, unmerited. Any adjective is not enough to define the incredible elimination of Barca at the hands of Chelsea. Few times has a team done so much to deserve to reach the Champions League final as that of Guardiola's. And rarely has a rival, with so little, gained that very prize. The fact is that the Blues scored three goals from three chances in 180 minutes. And they advanced to Munich.'
AS went with simply: 'Adios Barcelona'.
It continued: 'An ultra-defensive Chelsea eliminated Barcelona to reach the final in Munich. The English team played with 10 men for 52 minutes. Fernando Torres made it 2-2 on the night. Messi missed a penalty and struck the post.'
The Madrid-based daily also pondered the future of Guardiola, who has guided the club to 13 trophies since taking charge in summer 2008 but has not yet committed himself beyond the end of the campaign as he prefers one-year contracts.
'Pep to speak with the president about the future,' it said, before quoting the 41-year-old's post-match thoughts: "We did not score at the opportune times and we have paid for that. Now, we're thinking about next year. I looked at what we have done wrong to tell the players, and cannot find anything."
Barcelona have won two of the last three Champions League crowns, but El Mundo Deportivo looked back on their other unexpected defeats.
'FC Barcelona lose to Chelsea, as in Bern [1961 final against Benfica] and against Inter [2010 semi-final],' it read.
'HISTORICAL Barca has fallen in the semi-final against Chelsea in a game full of bad luck, in which Messi missed a penalty and hit the post while the English team took advantage of their two chances.'
It also spoke of Guardiola's contract situation alongside a pained-looking image of the coach on the touchline, saying: 'Now turn to take a decision'. It added: 'Pep Guardiola, who lamented the bad luck throughout the tie, has assured that in the coming hours the president will deal with his and [assistant] Tito Vilanova's renewals.'
Madrid's El Pais went with the headline: 'The most tragic monologue of Barcelona', and followed up with 'Barca crash against the Chelsea wall on a fateful night for Messi'.
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