Lionel Messi scored his first goal in nine appearances against Chelsea to earn Barcelona a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their last-16 UEFA Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
Barcelona dominated possession in the early stages, but a lack of width, speed and guile meant that Chelsea, defensively disciplined, restricted them to few sights of goal. Meanwhile, Willian twice welted curlers from distance against the post, and at half-time the sense was that it was the away side which needed to change things.
The second period started slowly, but then on 62 minutes Chelsea took a corner short as Barcelona failed to mark Willian on the edge of the box – fair enough, it was not as though they had been warned – and he shifted the angle, then passed a lovely finish low inside the near post.
With Chelsea maintaining their defensive shape, an equaliser did not look imminent, but then Christensen passed across the face of his box, Andres Iniesta intercepted, and retained his composure to tee up Messi, who finished with ease.
Neither side came especially close to finding a winner, Barcelona looking to protect their draw and Chelsea wary of sending too many men forward, and though it is easy to see Chelsea scoring at the Camp Nou, it is easy to see Barcelona doing likewise.
TALKING POINT: Why can’t Chelsea play like this every week?
Chelsea have been ragged on more than a few occasions this season, but tonight they were solid, sensible and enterprising. They have no excuse for not delivering that standard on a regular basis, and that they have not is to their collective shame.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Willian (Chelsea)
A constant threat, he found Sergio Busquets’ weak point, squaring him up and shifting the ball away to slam two shots against the post, before stroking home a lovely opener.
Chelsea: Courtois 5, Azpilicueta 8, Christensen 6, Rudiger 7, Moses 6, Kante 5, Fabregas 5, Alonso 5, Willian 8, Hazard 7, Pedro 5. Subs: Morata 6, Drinkwater 6.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6, Sergi Roberto 5, Umtiti 6, Pique 6, Jordi Alba 5, Busquets 5, Rakitic 5, Paulinho 5, Messi 7, Suarez 5, Iniesta 5. Subs: Vidal 6, Andre Gomes 6.
- Barcelona have conceded in each of their seven visits to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League (W1 D2 L4), with their only win coming in February 2006 (2-1)
- That win for Barcelona was the last time that Chelsea lost against the Spanish side, with the Blues unbeaten in their last eight Champions League games (W2 D6).
- Six of Willian’s nine Champions League goals for Chelsea have come from outside the box (67%).
- In fact, since joining Chelsea in 2013/14, Willian has scored more Champions League goals from outside the box than any other player (6, followed by Cristiano Ronaldo & Neymar on 5).
- Lionel Messi scored his first-ever goal against Chelsea in nine appearances (730 minutes), netting with his 30th shot against them.
- Messi has scored 18 goals in 27 appearances against English sides in the Champions League, including eight in his last five.
- Chelsea are the 71st club that Lionel Messi has scored against for Barcelona – he has only failed to score against 11 clubs that he has faced.
- Lionel Messi has now scored at least one goal in exactly half of his appearances in the Champions League (61 games scored in, 122 appearances).
- Luis Suarez has now failed to score in the last 881 minutes of play in the Champions League, his longest drought in the competition. His last goal dates back to March 2017 against PSG.
- 5’ – Rakitic dawdles and Hazard slides in, finding Willian outside him. Northing comes of it, but Chelsea maintain pressure and Hazard wanders over to the right, taking possession close to the corner of the box before looking up wiping his foot across a surprise rasper that screeches towards and just past the far top corner!
- 33’ – Willian is playing well, and he swerves a pass out to Hazard with the outside of his foot. Hazard sends it back, and at inside-left, he suddenly injects some pace, shifting the ball away from Busquets who can’t keep up, and shmicing a wonderful curler that bases the far post full in the face, halfway up. On the touchline, Conte is furious!
- 41’ – Oh man! Willian picks up another loose ball at inside left and shapes to go far corner again before switching in the process, zetzing another pearler, this time against the near post! Dearie me, Conte is about to combust.
- 43’ – Pique heads a free-kick not very clear and hazard seizes upon the bouncing ball, unable to quite get over it and hooking his volley high as a consequence. Chelsea are coming…
- 62’ – WHAT A GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (Willian) If ever a goal was deserved! Chelsea take the corner short, Alonso to Hazard, and with bodies in the box, he cuts back to Willian on the edge! He takes a moment, shifts the ball, and punches a curling pass around the various men between him and goal, inside the near post! What a beautiful finish that is, and on the touchline Conte celebrates.
- 75’ – GOAL! Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Messi) A moment of class, and there it is! First, Suarez thinks he should have penalty when Rudiger seems to usher him grasswards, then Christensen attempts a ludicrous pass across his own box when he could just wallop clear. Iniesta intercepts on the other side of the box as Azpilicueta slides in, and with Suarez screeching for a square pass, he keeps his head – there’s man who might cut it out – sliding a cut-back into Messi’s path which he dispatches beautifully, passing it firmly inside the near post for his first goal against Chelsea.