Negative Chelsea Earn Goalless Draw
Chelsea arrived for the game with Barcelona with Guss Hiddink ordering his team to attack the Catalan’s and go for the throat and also the promise of an explosive battle. Instead it was a negative ultra-defensive performance from the Blues as they became the first team this season to stop Barca from scoring at Camp Nou as the first leg of their Champions League semi-final ended in a goalless draw.
Barcelona skipper Carles Puyol started on the bench, with Marquez at centre-back and Eric Abidal on the left and Chelsea lined up with a 4-5-1 formation, with just Didier Drogba up front.
Barca started the more brightly and with just a minute gone Henry showed he still has pace as he went past Branislav Ivanovic and was brought down by the Chelsea defender to win the first free kick of the night. Xavi swung the ball into Samuel Eto’o at the back post and he headed back across goal where Rafael Marquez went close with the Chelsea defence in disaray, although the play had already been stopped for an infringement.
Barcelona were dominating possession with their fluid passing game without really creating anything as their play in the final third left much to be desired. With 14 minutes gone Messi went past Bosingwa like he wasn’t there and as he was about to break into the area the left back bowled him over with a crude shoulder in the back.
Barca were beginning to get into their stride now and on 26 minutes, as Messi attempted to charge into the box he was brought down by Alex, who earned the game’s first booking. With a half an hour gone it was obvious only one team was attempting to play any football as Barca had completed 233 passes to Chelsea’s 73. Tempers were starting to fray now and there were bookings for Michael Ballack and Toure Yaya, and a feud was developing between Dani Alves and Blues’ duo Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba.
In the 38th minute a dreadful mistake by Rafael Marquez let in Drogba but a fantastic double save from Valdes in the Barca goal spared the Mexican’s blushes. Minutes later and it was Pique’s turn to gift Drogba with a chance but the striker slipped before he could shoot and the chance was gone.
Chelsea got the first chance of the second half when Malouda went past Alves and was pulled down by the full back. From the resulting free kick Ballack got a free header but headed over from eight yards.
With the second half just five minutes old and with no Chelsea player within five yards of him, Marquez went down clutching his left knee and he was replaced by Carles Puyol, who was making his 100th European appearance.
In the 67th minute Lampard brought down Iniesta and Dani Alves sent the free-kick just over the crossbar and Cech denied Eto’o with a fabulous save when the Barca striker got free of Alex for the first time in the game in the 69th minute. Two minutes later Lampard, who was having a very quiet game, was replaced by former Barca defender Juliano Belletti as Chelsea looked to protect the stalemate. 73 minutes gone and Barca were denied a stonewall penalty when Eto’o got the ball on the left-hand edge of the area and slipped it into the centre for Henry, who was just about to get a shot in when Bosingwa tugged his arm and pulled him down, however the referee unbelievably waved play on. A minute later Puyol was booked for a needless late lunge on Malouda and as a result he’s out of the second leg next Wednesday.
The referee made his second huge blunder of the night on 84 minutes when Iniesta played a one-two with Messi down the left, but before he could reach the box, he was cynically checked by Ballack. That should have been a second yellow for the German midfielder. Chelsea could have had no complaints had they been losing 1-0 and down to ten men.
In the first of the five minutes of added time Alves sent over a wonderful cross from the right which was met by Krkic Bojan, who from six yards out managed to head over the bar with Cech nowhere. A minute later and it was Hleb’s turn to waste a great chance. After being sent clear down the inside-left channel, he hesitated and allowed Cech to smother his first effort at his feet, then skewed the rebound wide.
Pep Guardiola was ‘proud’ of his Barcelona players despite the 0-0 draw.
“It’s never easy to play well when the opposition is not playing football,” said Guardiola, before adding “I am proud of my players. You can be sure we will go to London with the same attacking spirit.”
Barcelona: Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique, Rafael Marquez (Carles Puyol, 52), Xavier Hernandez Xavi, Eric Abidal, Daniel Alves, Andres Iniesta, Yaya Toure, Samuel Eto’o (Krkic Perez Bojan, 82), Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry (Alex Hleb, 87)
Subs Not Used: Jorquera, Gudjohnsen, Keita, Sylvinho.
Booked: Toure Yaya, Puyol.
Chelsea: Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose da Silva Bosingwa, Michael Essien, Rodrigo da Costa Alex, John Terry, Florent Malouda, Frank Lampard (Juliano Belletti, 71), Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack (Nicolas Anelka, 90), John Obi Mikel
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Di Santo, Kalou, Mancienne, Stoch.
Booked: Alex, Ballack.
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