Chelsea only managed one shot on goal all night, but Didier Drogba made it count as the Premier League side upset Barcelona 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.
Chelsea went into Wednesday's clash with Barcelona looking to get a measure of revenge for what they and their fans see as an unjust result from three years ago. The London side had two appeals for a penalty turned down in that 2009 clash and failed to reach the final by the narrowest of margins, when Andres Iniesta found the back of the net in injury time to make it 1-1 in the second leg – good enough to send Barcelona through on the away goals rule.
While the tie is only half finished, the Blues went a good way to extracting that revenge in the first leg of their 2012 Champions League semi-final by upsetting Barca 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Barcelona began the match in typical style, holding the ball and making lots of short passes looking for a way through the Blues' defense. Perhaps surprisingly, though, it was the home side that was first to create a decent chance.
Barca control, Chelsea counter
A long kick from Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech put striker Didier Drogba through alone on goal in the third minute of play but the Ivory Coast international's first touch let him down and Barcelona's Victor Valdes easily gathered in the wayward ball.
Barcelona had to wait until the 9th minute for their first big chance, when Alexis Sanchez perfectly timed his run onto a ball chipped in behind the English defense, however his attempt to chip Cech beat the ‘keeper but came back off the bar.
By the 17th minute Barca had really started to settle in and Cech was forced to come up with a fine save. By this time it was pretty clear that Chelsea's only chance would be to strike on counter, which they attempted unsuccessfully during their brief periods of possession.
Another clear chance came just before the half-hour mark when Barcelona's diminutive magician Lionel Messi climbed high to head a ball on goal from just inside the box, but Cech was again equal to the task. Despite the lack of goals, by this time the statistics painted a clear picture, with Barcelona owning more than 70 percent of the ball.
It was not long after this that Drogba began having a great deal of difficulty staying on his feet, with a series of aerial challenges sending him to the ground and rendering him unable to get up - at least not right away. Chelsea's tactics by this time consisted of little more than defending and relying on Drogba to win a long ball in the air.
The hosts dodged another bullet in the 43rd minute, when Fabregas went clean through on goal, but as the former Arsenal midfielder's shot travelled towards a gaping net, Ashley Cole rushed back to clear off the line, much to the relief of a beaten Petr Cech.
Just seconds before the Bavarian referee Felix Brych was set to blow his whistle to end the half, and completely against the run of play, Chelsea broke the deadlock.
Frank Lampard capitalized on a rare mistake by Messi just inside the Chelsea half. The England international played a long looping ball up the left flank, which was collected by Ramires. The Brazilian then passed the ball low through the penalty area where Drogba, now apparently recovered from a series of minor ailments, nipped in behind his marker and put it past a helpless Valdes.
Barcelona began with second half the way they started and continued through most of the first, dominating possession and forcing Cech to be on his toes.
With the rain, which had begun late in the first half pouring down, Messi attempted to stroll through the Chelsea defence towards the hour mark, but was foiled by a clean tackle inside the box from John Terry.
Shortly afterwards, in the 65th minute the little magician got another chance, but his free kick taken from a few yards outside the box slammed into the Chelsea wall.
Still on the back foot
With 22 minutes left on the clock, Ramires was booked for knocking into Messi from behind on the edge of the area. The world player of the year was among the players looking dangerous at the set piece, but dummied a shot, allowing Xavi to knock the ball well over Petr Cech's bar.
Chelsea coach Roberto di Matteo sought an extra attacking option for the closing phases, bringing on Drogba's Ivory Coast teammate Salomon Kalou for Mata in the 74th minute.
However, Chelsea were able to create little in the way of chances for the rest of the evening. Sergio Busqets became the second player to receive a yellow card after a mistimed tackle as Ramires was racing down the left touch line.
Twelve minutes from time Barcelona got yet another chance with a free kick from 25 meters (27 yards) out, but Daniel Alves' shot also crashed into the Chelsea wall.
Barcelona just kept coming, with another Messi freekick in the 87th minute. This time he beat the wall and Puyol redirected the shot with a glancing header, forcing Cech to use every inch of his lanky frame to push the shot past the post – one of many but clearly his best save of the night.
Both Chelsea and Barca fans held their collective breath in injury time when Messi made another foray into the London club's area, playing the ball to Jose Bosingwa who had come on for Ramires just moments earlier. His backheel was tackled away but fell to the feet of Pedro Rodriguez, who beat Petr Cech, sending the ball across the goal – and squarely onto the post.
The return leg will take place at the Nou Camp in Barcelona next Tuesday.
Author: Chuck Penfold
Editor: Mark Hallam