Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Messi breaks Blues hoodoo to leave tie in the balance

SOCCER-ENGLAND-WAT-CHE  PREVIEW Chelsea manager Antonio Conte Chelsea last defeated Barcelona in 2012 and Conte is confident that his side can repeat the feat | Reuters
Frederick Owens | 21 February, 2018, 10:28

Barcelona's Lionel Messi scored an equaliser to deny Chelsea a famous victory in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge. With a smidgeon more luck, Chelsea could have been 2-0 up at half-time.

But 13 minutes later Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen hit a sloppy pass which allowed Andres Iniesta to link up with Lionel Messi, who steered his shot past Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea's £58 million club record signing did not do much of note during his brief cameo, but he was on the pitch at least, even if his fleeting appearances are becoming a theme for Antonio Conte's team. The Italian's Premier League champions have struggled to impose themselves in domestic football this season but soaked up Barcelona pressure before Willian scored in the 62nd minute of their last-16 first leg tie.

Chelsea, who started with Eden Hazard as a false nine and Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud on the bench, had looked as though they were going to take a first-leg advantage after blunting Barcelona's attacking threat. I repeat: Christensen for me, he was one of the best players tonight. They followed what we prepared.

"It's a pity because I am very proud of my players for the game they played".

"We were very close to playing a ideal game, we paid dearly for one mistake", said Conte.

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The first half ended with Barcelona having most of the possession but the home side looking the more threatening.

Antonio Conte urged his Chelsea players "to do something incredible at the Nou Camp" after their 1-1 draw but warned that they would be "crazy" to go toe-to-toe against Barcelona.

The statistics surrounding the performance of Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets versus Chelsea have been garnering widespread attention online this evening. "We must be pleased with the game, not the final result".

The 21-year-old's aimless ball across his own area was seized upon by Iniesta and when he cut it back to Messi the Argentine duly delivered to send Barca's travelling fans wild.

Chelsea will travel to the Camp Nou for next month's return fixture confident that they can score against the La Liga leaders because Ernesto Valverde's men gave the home side numerous chances to beat goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen during this game.

"So overall a fantastic performance [but] in the end a shame".

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