UEFA Champions League – Chelsea-Barcelona – Messi ends hoodoo to grab Barcelona draw at Chelsea
Barcelona hold the slight edge after Lionel Messi’s equaliser gave them a share of the spoils in the first leg of their round of 16 tie with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The visitors dominated possession in the first half but, one wayward Paulinho header aside, failed to muster any clear-cut chances and were fortunate to reach the interval level after Willian struck the post on two occasions.
The Brazilian fared better in the 62nd minute when he calmly found the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Chelsea looked set to take an advantage to the Camp Nou until Andrés Iniesta burst through and teed up Messi to end his goal hoodoo against the London side.
Key player: Willian (Chelsea)
A fan favourite at Stamford Bridge, Willian was in inspired form all evening. The Brazilian rattled both posts in a dynamic first-half display and made the visitors pay for lax defending at the third time of asking, driving low past Marc-André ter Stegen from the edge of the box early in the second period. A constant outlet on the break, Willian more than justified his starting berth.
Reporter talking points
Daniel Thacker, Chelsea: Antonio Conte was so nearly rewarded for his selection gamble, with the decision to field Willian, Pedro Rodríguez and Eden Hazard as a fluid attacking trio proving a masterstroke for 75 minutes. Then Messi struck, breaking his Chelsea duck and the buoyant mood of those inside Stamford Bridge. Given the tight nature of the first leg, that away goal could prove crucial in the final reckoning.
Graham Hunter, Barcelona: This, of course, is most important for the fact that the Camp Nou leg of this tie is not only alive, it’s bristling with interest and tension. However, what will entrance the world for the next few days is the brilliance of Willian’s performance and the way that Messi found a response. In 2009 when Barcelona qualified for the UEFA Champions League final, Messi had never scored against an English team. He sorted that. Before tonight it was infamous that he had never found the net against Chelsea and, when it really counted, that record was shattered too.
- Messi’s goal was his first against Chelsea, in his ninth match against them
- Barcelona have won only one of their last six #UCL knockout games, losing four
- Messi (22) leads Cristiano Ronaldo (19) as top scorer in round of 16 history
- Messi scored first away #UCL goal since his double at Celtic in November 2016
- There has only been one goalless draw between these sides in their 13 #UCL games