In a predictable fashion, the Blues produced something near perfect even as Barcelona held sway for most part of the game. No thanks, to a moment of imbalance, both sides settled for a 1-1 draw and Barcelona went home with an away goal advantage.
Brazilian forward, Willian; eventually finding the angle more accurately gave Chelsea the lead in the second half with a blind and tight grass cutter to send the home fans into euphoria after hitting the post twice in the first half. How he stole the show on Eden Hazard’s European audition wouldn’t matter however – someone had to rise to the occasion.
When it looked like Chelsea were nicking a famous victory over the Spanish giants, Lionel Messi who hadn’t scored against the London club in eight fixtures had an answer for critics. Andreas Iniesta intercepted a giveaway pass by Andreas Christensen across the Chelsea box and quickly set up the Argentine who finished with aplomb to silence Stamford Bridge.
Little could be said about Antonio Conte’s decision to start the game without an original striker though. He wanted a perfect game full of concentration but his selection of Eden Hazard as a false nine proved unreal as well.
That is not to ridicule a teamwork of 90 minutes, but it would have been sensible if two playmakers did what Willian did in the entire game. Even though Barcelona rarely created a chance, Conte’s lack of trust in his outright strikers paid an undue respect to the Earnesto Valverde led team.
Nevertheless, it is still sane to applaud Chelsea’s performance, but there’s still a mountain to climb in the second leg at Camp Nou. The Blues will have their hands full with a visit to Manchester on the domestic scene, and the return leg will come thick and fast afterwards.
There is plenty to play for in the second leg. The approach on both ends is predictable; Barcelona will surge forward with a sharp spearhead of Messi and Suarez while Chelsea will have to defend with their whole lives and yet, hope to hit Barcelona on the counter.
Come March 14, Chelsea must score to guarantee any chance of progressing. If the Londoners have any plans of making life difficult for the Catalonia giants, it won’t be easy for them as well.