Led by Lionel Messi’s extraordinary performance, Barcelona brushed aside Chelsea to reach the Quarter-Final of the Champions League for a record 11 consecutive seasons. The Argentine was the driving force behind Barcelona’s game, scoring two goals while adding an assist on Ousmane Dembele’s first goal for Barcelona.
Not watching the first leg, after seeing the start of this one could’ve easily thought that Chelsea were protecting a lead. But in fact, Chelsea were in need of a goal to secure a place in the next round of the competition. However, it would be Barcelona who would draw first blood after just two minutes. Messi was looking for a one-two with Dembele on the right wing, but the young Frenchman couldn’t send the ball back. After fortuitous bounce off a Chelsea defender, Luis Suarez found Messi in space. From a tough angle, Messi fired on goal, sending the ball through the legs of Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.
After conceding, Chelsea stepped on the gas, quickly pinning Barcelona back, creating their first chance in the 6th minute. Willian sent a dangerous cross to the near post, but Suarez redirected it just wide of the post. Chelsea continued to press, with Eden Hazard and Willian looking very lively again and Barcelona looking shaky in defense. Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make his first save in the 12th minute, stopping Willian’s 30-yard drive.
Barcelona were looking to reestablish control of the game after Chelsea’s continued attacking efforts. The results were mixed as while Barcelona managed to dominate possession, Chelsea were seemingly always dangerous, especially on the counter attack. In the 20th minute, Hazard looked to level the score after cutting in from the right wing to set up a left-footed shot, but was excellently blocked by Samuel Umtiti. Seconds later, as the visitors were looking to start another attack, Messi stole the ball from Cesc Fabrages in midfield to launch a counter the other way. After skipping past Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill, Messi, now on the edge of the area, sent the ball across the penalty area to Dembele. In plenty of space, courtesy of Suarez’s excellent dummy run, the Frenchmen fired a diagonal shot on target, beating Courtois and doubling the lead.
While Chelsea reacted excellently to the first goal, there was no such reaction after the second as Barcelona continued to attack, creating their next scoring chance in the 28th minute after a long attack during which just about every Barcelona player was involved. However, the crucial play came when Andres Iniesta dazzled inside the penalty area before finding Suarez who slipped behind the defense. But after being beat on both previous shots on target, Courtois was able to make a very good save. Five minutes later, Messi sent a free kick into the area, but despite shedding his marker, Gerard Pique couldn’t flick a shot on goal.
The visitors came close to opening their account in the 37th minute. Willian went storming down the left wing before sending a dangerous cross into the area. There Marcos Alonso fired on goal, but ter Stegen made the save. The rebound fell to Olivier Giroud on the edge of the area who quickly fired, but Umtiti was there again to make the block. Moments later N’Golo Kante went on a solo run through the Barcelona defense, but was interfered with at the crucial moment by an offside Fabregas and the shot went wide.
Chelsea were pressing as the first half was entering its final minutes and Giroud won a free kick in a fabulous spot. Alonso, not allowing Willian to take, fired a curling shot goalward, over the wall and out of the reach of ter Stegen, skimming the post. However, it was the outside part of the post and Barcelona went into the break up by two goals.
The visitors came storming out of the gate, but Barcelona’s defense was up to the task with Umtiti registering another crucial block. In the 48th minute, Courtois gifted the ball away to Suarez on the edge of area. The Uruguayan wasted little time in taking the shot, but Courtois recovered in time to make the save. A few moments later, Alonso was played behind the Barcelona line, going down after the slightest of touches from Pique, but referee Damir Skomina would have none of it, waving play on.
In desperate need of a goal Chelsea opened up their formation, focusing mostly on attack. Barcelona made their first substitution in the 56th minute, replacing the barely-fit-to-play Iniesta with Paulinho. Chelsea were pressing very high up the pitch, hoping for a deep turnover, but more often than not the hosts easily made their way through the first wave.
Ernesto Valverde was forced to make his second change in the 61st minute when Sergio Busquets went off with a knock he picked up in an aerial duel with Giroud. He was replaced by Andre Gomes. Two minutes later, Barcelona added to their lead after a lighting quick counter attack, with Gomes starring in a side role, starting by helping to force the turnover. Suarez then found Messi in space and, allowed to do so, Messi carried the ball deep into the penalty area. Coming in from the left wing, Gomes pulled Victor Moses to him, opening even more space for Messi who once again fired through the legs of Courtois, putting Barcelona in a commanding position with his 100th Champions League goal.
Three personnel changes followed in the 66th minute. Moses and Giroud made way for Alvaro Morata and Davide Zappacosta for Chelsea while Aleix Vidal took Dembele’s place on the pitch for the Blaugrana. Even though the visitors looked to attack, their defeat was inevitable and the players knew it. The perfect example came with about 15 minutes left as Hazard went on a long run through three Barcelona defenders to retrieve the ball and send a perfect ball into the danger area, but not a single teammate was supporting his run.
With time running out, Jordi Alba was also struggling on the pitch, clearly in some discomfort, but the left-back was able to tough it out. Antonio Conte made his final substitution in the 82nd minute with Pedro, who received a very warm welcome from the Camp Nou crowd, replacing Hazard. The home side would create a chance to further extend their lead in the 85th minute when Ivan Rakitić swung in a corner kick right onto the head of Paulinho, but the Brazilian’s header was excellently saved.
In the dying minutes of the game Chelsea went forward in search of a consolidation goal, but ter Stegen was hardly tested as the defense in front of him did an excellent job. In the 90th minute, however, the German was beaten by Antonio Rüdiger’s header, but this time the crossbar came to his rescue, preserving the clean sheet. Two minutes of added time also passed and Barcelona booked a place in the quarterfinal on the Champions League. Who the Catalans will face there will be determined on Friday.