Misfiring Barcelona fail to break down Chelsea

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

After all the talk in the build-up to the match about the battle between Lionel Messi and Jose Boswinga, the Portuguese man came out on top on the night. Indeed the world’s most exciting player, Messi, failed to cause the Chelsea defense any real problems.

Barcelona dominated the first half possession wise. Wave after wave of attacks flooded the Chelsea half. Yet when it came to the final pass and clinical finish, Barca failed miserably.

Indeed the Spanish league leaders looked nervous. The Barcelona high-speed train has slowed down in recent months, with Real Madrid cutting a 12 point lead down to just four in La Liga.

After demolishing Bayern Munich in the quarter finals, one would have expected a more confident Barcelona. However as the first half progressed and Chelsea went from strength to strength at the back, the Catalan giants seemed to run out of ideas.

Frenchman Thierry Henry had a shot well saved from Chelsea keeper, Petr Cech. This was the only clear-cut chance of any real note for Barcelona in the first half as they were left frustrated by the solid defending by the English team, led by skipper, John Terry.

Chelsea were content to play camped in their own half with Drogba adventuring on the odd solo venture into the Barcelona half. Indeed he was presented with a glorious opportunity moments before the half-time whistle.

A lacklustre back pass from Mexican, Rafael Marquez, sent Drogba through on goal, but his shot was directly at Victor Valdes, who only managed to beat the ball back into the oncoming Ivory Coast striker’s path. A cute attempt at a chip didn’t fool Valdes who finally managed to take control of the situation.

The second half proved a much more disjointed affair. No team really settled into any rhythm. Barcelona still managed to dominate in the possession stakes and at times toyed with Chelsea.

Yet Barca played with an all too familiar  ‘Arsenal’ style of play – they seemed to want to walk the ball into the net, when the crude long ball might have been a better option.

They also seemed to struggle against the strong and physical Chelsea midfield. Essien, Mikel, Lampard and Ballack bullied the lighter Iniesta and Xavi off the ball, just as it seemed the two Spaniards would dance their way into the box, sidestepping left and right.

The introduction of Bojan and Hleb sparked a resurgence for the Catalan side in the last 10 minutes of the game. A superbly whipped in ball from Brazilian wing back, Daniel Alves, presented Bojan with a seemingly easy finish. Yet the Spanish youngster glanced the ball over the bar from the six yard line.

And in added time, Hleb found himself through on goal but Cech rushed out to meet him, forcing the Belarusian wide, and who subsequently thrashed the ball into the side netting. It proved to be the final chance of the night.

Chelsea will return to Stamford Bridge confident with the support of the home crowd that they can progress to a second consecutive Champions League final.

Barcelona will feel aggrieved they didn’t turn all their possession into at least one goal. It shows once again the strength of the English Premiership against the attacking flair of the Spanish league.

In the last three seasons, Barcelona have only managed to score once against an English side in the knockout stages and have failed to take a leading position away from the Nou Camp. In 2007, Liverpool secured a historic 2-1 victory, last year Manchester United battled for a goal-less draw, and Chelsea managed a well earned clean sheet against the Catalans this time around.

It makes for an intriguing second leg.

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