Barcelona didn’t play to their best ability tonight and did not have many chances on goal, but every one that they had, they exploited with maximum effect. Chelsea were positive, but in the vital moments they were outclassed.
At the forefront of Barcelona’s attacks was Messi and tonight he got his 100th Champions League goal in just 123 appearances. No adjective in the English Language justifies the magic he creates on the pitch. He makes the hard stuff look easy. He goes past defenders as if he weren’t there.
Messi was all over the park. On the left, the centre and the right. And Chelsea couldn’t handle him. When players have the ball and are surrounded by the opposing players you feel they may lose it, but with Messi you never get that feeling.
But for all of Messi’s magic, Chelsea did not do themselves any favours.
If Chelsea were to progress they needed everybody fighting and giving everything they had. But there were too many passengers. Hazard was anonymous. Giroud didn’t do enough. And Courtois made some horrendous goalkeeping errors.
After all of the pre-match talk about how Chelsea had to soak up the Barcelona pressure and stay tight, it was disappointing that they had caved under that pressure Conte spoke so much about at the first time of asking.
Conte knew Chelsea would not dominate the possession stats tonight and he would have emphasised the need to be effective on the ball and not give away any needless passes. But it must have fallen on deaf ears because that is exactly what they did in the first half.
Chelsea may have felt hard done by for the fact that they had conceded twice after just two opportunities but they knew how deadly Barcelona was. They knew the dangers and yet still Chelsea played into their hands. They were sloppy and they were punished for it.
Even after Chelsea’s poor season in the Premier League – they currently sit 5th – after their 2-2 draw in the first leg, you expected more.
Barcelona got off to a dominant start penning Chelsea into their own half and their first failure to clear the danger cost them dearly.
Messi found himself in space on the right and played a give-and-go with Dembele but the return ball was deflected, but only into the space of Suarez who flicked it on back to Messi which set him off on the right corner of the box and he slotted the shot under Courtois’ legs. He should never have been beaten from that angle.
Despite a costly mistake, there were encouraging signs for Chelsea. They found some rare space which they exploited. A long ball was lofted towards Hazard which caught out the Barcelona defence. Hazard had Willian on the overlap and another option in the box. Instead, he cut in onto his left foot and shot from just outside of the box but it was blocked by Umtiti.
But just as Chelsea had taken their first shot, Messi was away, skipping past Christensen and Azpilicueta after Fabregas sloppily gave the ball away. Messi turned and played Dembele in on the right who fired it home and doubled the lead. It was clinical from Barcelona who pounced on every opportunity.
Chelsea did show determination to get back in the game but Barcelona were on another level. Willian, who was been in great form in recent weeks, was one of few Chelsea players who showed innovation and a desire to get in behind his opponent. He eased past Roberto on the right and crossed the ball towards the edge of the box where Alonso’s shot was parried by ter Stegen.
Alonso went close after a 25-yard free-kick cannoned off the post, but Chelsea had not done enough and it was too comfortable for Barcelona.
In the second half, Chelsea had to go for it and they did have Barcelona on the ropes for some periods.
Hazard, not known for his strength, held the ball up magnificently and played it to Giroud who then played it on to Alonso in the penalty area. Just as Alonso opened up his body to shoot, the ball was taken away from him by a sliding Umtiti in what was a goal saving challenge.
Determined, Chelsea came again. A one-two with Willian and Giroud caught out Barcelona and as Willian put Alonso through on goal, Pique shoved his arm into Alonso’s back forcing him to go down, but the referee did not give the penalty. Conte was apoplectic on the touchline and Giroud was booked for his protests. It looked like a harsh decision to wave away the appeal.
Alonso had a couple of chances to get Chelsea back into the game but every time he let fly, his shots were blocked. It was a solid defensive performance from the Barcelona back-four who when called upon, contained Chelsea effectively.
After allowing Chelsea a couple of attacks, Barcelona got back in the driving seat.
Messi was hungry for another and ran onto the end of Suarez’s pass. He then went past three Chelsea defenders as if they weren’t there and slotted it under Courtois legs for the second time. It was more poor goalkeeping yet again.
Conte threw on Morata, Zappacosta and Pedro late in desperation but at 3-0 the tie was well and truly over.
With Chelsea out of the Champions League and 5th in the Premier League, the pressure on Antonio Conte’s job intensifies.
ter Stegen 7
Subs used: Paulinho 7, Gomez 7, Vidal 6
Subs used: Morata 6, Zappacosta 6, Pedro 6
Xplode’s Man of the Match – Lionel Messi