Chelsea Show Spirit at Nou Camp but Messi and Barca Deliver Example of Efficiency: UEFA Champions League; Last 16 From Reuters via Guardian UK

Chelsea Show Spirit at Nou Camp but Messi and Barca Deliver Example of Efficiency: UEFA Champions League; Last 16

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Three minutes. That’s all it took. Ousmane Dembele’s pass ricocheted to Luis Suarez, who played in Lionel Messi, and the latter’s shot found its way in through the legs of Thibaut Courtois.

That’s that, surely. Chelsea, who needed a goal to stand any chance of progressing, set up to defend, and had failed in that regard after only 180 seconds. Except that wasn’t that, the Blues weren’t quite ready to lay down, and that early goal conceded seemed to galvanise them to action. Suddenly, it was a more positive approach from Antonio Conte’s side, Willian and Eden Hazard were running at the Barca defence, the wing backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso were getting much further forward, and Barcelona looked vulnerable.

Despite being behind, Conte would have had a tinge of satisfaction at his side’s display, but there would be nothing satisfactory about what happened midway through the half. Not from Messi’s point of view, though, as the Argentine stole the ball from Cesc Fabregas, evaded Andreas Christensen’s lunge, and Cesar Azpilicueta’s stretch, then found Dembele, whose shot found its way into the top corner despite the fingertips of Courtois.

Now extra time was no longer a possibility, Chelsea needed two goals, and just over an hour to get both, at a ground where Barcelona have only conceded eight times in this competition in four years. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying, only a few blocks at the back denied Chelsea, while Ngolo Kante dragged an effort wide, then Marcos Alonso tested Marc Andre Ter-Stegen, before hitting the post on the cusp of halftime with a free-kick.

If Chelsea ended the first half on the front foot, it was nothing compared to how they began the second. Barcelona were barely able to leave their half, let alone keep the ball, and you sensed if Chelsea got one back the mood around the stadium would surely change. Then when Alonso went down under Gerard Pique’s challenge in the box, it looked like that opportunity for a first goal would come, but referee Damir Skomina was having none of it, and Olivier Giroud saw yellow for his trouble.

Chelsea still wouldn’t be deterred, and it took another Pique challenge on Alonso, this time undeniably fair, to prevent a sight of goal. And therein lied the problem for the Blues; for all their show of determination, their spirit and boldness, they hardly tested Ter-Stegen in the Barca goal, and when the hosts broke forward around the hour mark- Suarez finding Messi, who had the beating of Courtois through his legs once again- the game was up.

By then Barcelona had taken off Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, through injury, while Conte brought on Alvaro Morata and Davide Zappacosta. It was to little avail for Chelsea, they did hit the bar in stoppage time through Antonio Rudiger, but Conte’s show of resignation came earlier with the withdrawal of Hazard for Pedro.

There are worse ways to lose, but this was a lesson on how to win.

Elsewhere:

Speaking of lessons, Manchester United received one on Wednesday on the benefits of attacking. For some 175 minutes of their entire tie with Sevilla, Jose Mourinho’s side were, well, a Jose Mourinho side. The football was insipid, and they rode their luck for most of the time. But by the 77th minute of the second leg, they were two down at home, both at the hands of Sevilla substitute Wissam Ben Yedder, and, as a result of a goalless first leg, needed to score three times. Romelu Lukaku got one back, but that was it. After failing against Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Leicester City, Los Rojilblancos' first ever success at the last 16 of this competition was celebrated at Old Trafford.

Results

Manchester United 1(1)-(2)2 Sevilla 

Barcelona 3(4)-(1)0 Chelsea

Roma 1(2)-(2)0 Shakhtar Donetsk (Roma go through on away goals)

Besiktas 1(1)-(8)3 Bayern Munich 

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