Barcelona put on a spectacle on the Nou Camp stage as they beat Chelsea to seal their place in the UEFA Campions League quarter finals.
Antonio Conte arrived at the Nou Camp missing David Luiz and Ross Barkley from his starting XI, yet Chelsea were no doubt bolstered by the return of Antonio Rüdiger to the side. Meanwhile, Barcelona saw the return of magician, Lionel Messi, after the birth of his son at the weekend.
Barcelona got off to a flying start thanks to some Messi magic. The maestro gave Barcelona the lead with his fastest ever goal in his career within just two minutes and eight seconds. Messi went for a quick one two, followed by Luis Suarez flicking the ball with a little back heel and the ball bounced into the box. Messi didn’t hesitate to seize his chance, and he subsequently slotted the ball past Thibaut Courtois; who should have done better to stop the shot at his near post.
Messi had failed to score in eight matches against Chelsea prior to this season and now the Barcelona hero has managed it both home and away. An absolute nightmare start for Chelsea, who now had no choice but to come out and look to redeem themselves.
five minutes in Chelsea were awarded a free kick just outside of the box, however the ball hit the side netting after taking a deflection in the box, going out for a corner.
Chelsea looked to make a come back as a spell of promising possession saw the English side enjoy a threatening surge. Their high pressure came to fruition within 11 minutes, as Willian worked hard to drive the ball towards goal, however it was easily saved by Marc-André Ter Stegen.
However, after 19 minutes Chelsea’s equalising hopes were quickly crushed as Fabregas lost possession in midfield leaving it to be snatched up by Barcelona. Some scintillating play from Messi saw him stream towards goal on the break, square the ball across the top of the box to Ousmane Dembélé, for the Frenchman to power the ball into goal.
Dembélé’s first goal for the Catalan giants allowed them some breathing space and the chance to relax in the game. The incredible forward thinking and vision from Messi left Chelsea facing a real challenge.
32 minutes in and a foul on Messi won Barcelona a free kick. Messi sent at great ball curling into the box which was picked up Gerard Pique, yet, the defender couldn’t quite get a foot to it and it was subsequently easily scooped up by Courtois.
Willian’s threatening efforts looked to earn Chelase a breakthrough in the game as, just after 39 minutes, the Brazilian burst down the pitch past Roberto towards goal, cutting back to the edge of the box for Marcus Alonso to pick it up and shoot, only for his shot to be blocked. The ball landed for Kante, who took the ball past the defender. Cess Fabregas had a chance to shoot, but Kante nicked the ball back off him and put it wide.
Moments later, the London team came close to breathing new life into the tie. On the brink of half time, Alonso’s attempt from a free kick curled just inches wide of the goal. Ter Stegen wouldn’t have stood chance if the shot had managed to stay on target.
The game entered halftime 2-0, with Barcelona looking comfortably victorious thanks to Messi’s incredible skill and Dembélé’s booming shot.
It was without doubt that Chelsea would look to come out all cylinders firing for the second half. And they did just that.
A solid start from Chelsea saw Antonio Conte’s side open the second half with a goal opportunity. In the 47th minute, Alonso had a seemingly free chance at goal, only for Dembélé to track all the way back to make a crucial tackle, maintaining Barcelona’s 2-0 lead and no doubt endearing himself to the Nou Camp fans.
In the 50th minute, Chelsea were left outraged as their claims for a penalty were denied by referee, Damir Skomina, after Marcus Alonso was dragged to the ground.
Chelsea’s hopes of a combat were quickly snuffed out as Suárez found Messi on the counter attack, who took the ball past the defenders to slip the ball through Courtois’ legs and into goal. Messi’s second goal – and second nutmeg on Courtois – of the night.
Barcelona, rightfully content with their lead, started to sit very deep, leaving just killer strikers Messi and Suárez hovering on the half way line. Chelsea started to look stronger, advancing on Barcelona, however failed to create a clear cut chance.
Barcelona threatened to get a fourth as Messi attempted to score from a free kick 25 yards out, however it was easily saved by Courtois as the Belgian palmed the ball behind for a corner.
After 82 minutes, Eden Hazard, who had been surprisingly quiet throughout the game and seemed nowhere near the standard of a world class player, made way for Pedro. The former Barcelona man received a warm welcome from the Nou Camp.
In the 90th minute, Chelsea made a last ditch attempt for a consolidation goal. Zappacosta received the ball in the box with his back to goal, yet the Italian managed to make room to turn and have a crack at goal, but the shot didn’t have enough power and the ball went out for a corner. Rüdiger managed to win the header, the ball beat Ter Stegen but pinged off the frame of the goal.
Barcelona were the epitome of class and quality on the night, as they left Chelsea with nothing but the bitter taste of disappointment.
The fantastic performance from Barcelona sees them deservedly stroll into the quarter finals of the Champions League thanks to some Messi magic.