Barcelona kicked off the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 1-1 draw away to Chelsea in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie. The home team played a fantastic game and deserved a huge victory, but Barça rode their luck and Lionel Messi rescued the team with a huge away goal.
Chelsea started the game very well, with a lot of intensity and good play in the first ten minutes. Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro were roaming all over the attacking third looking to wreak havoc in the Barça defense, and they found spaces to trouble Ter Stegen in goal. Barça were very slow to start, but they managed to improve when Lionel Messi dropped into midfield to make plays from deep.
Barça’s dominance forced Chelsea to sit very deep inside their half, which is something they just love to do because it gives them a lot of space to hit teams on the counter, and they continued to be dangerous throughout the half because of their ability to break quickly.
Chelsea’s Willian was the one who came the closest to scoring with two fantastic efforts from outside the box that hit both posts, and Barça were really, really lucky to not concede in both occasions. Eden Hazard was also very dangerous, with two great shots that went just over the bar.
At halftime, Chelsea were by far the better team, and Barça needed to improve a lot if they were to take a good result from Stamford Bridge.
Barça did improve to start the second half, pressing higher up the pitch and looking quite good in possession while Chelsea did not have any chance to counter attack. But the Blues took their first chance in the second half to find the back of the net, and after coming close twice in the first half Willian finally scored thanks to a beautifully placed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Barça looked on the ropes in the minutes following Chelsea’s goal, and the hosts looked like scoring a second at any moment. But Andreas Christensen made a really poor pass across his own box that was intercepted by Andrés Iniesta, who found Lionel Messi for the equalizer and the Argentine’s first ever goal against Chelsea.
The final minutes were open with both sides looking for a winner, but neither team could create a real scoring chance and we saw a lot of fouls and cards instead of football. The final whistle came, and Barça have to celebrate this result. They simply did not deserve it, and they have to play A LOT better at Camp Nou to go through.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets; Paulinho (Vidal), Messi, Iniesta (Gomes); Suárez
Goal: Messi (75’)
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rüdiger; Moses, Fàbregas (Drinkwater), Kanté, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro (Morata)
Goal: Willian (62’)