Chelsea put in a stellar performance to earn a 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie thanks to Willian’s goal just after the hour mark.
The Brazilian impressed all game but Lionel Messi’s first career goal against Chelsea with fifteen minutes to go means it’s all to play for at the Camp Nou next month.
The home team started on the front foot and had a series of half chances within the opening ten minutes, with Hazard coming closest as he watched his blistering long range drive fizz just over the corner of where post meets bar.
However, it was Barcelona who had the first real chance of the match. Messi dinked the ball towards Paulinho at the back post but his header bounced wide when he really should have taken advantage of the space he found in the Chelsea box.
Both sides were playing very cautiously and appeared petrified of conceding after committing too much going forward.
An extremely cynical tap tackle on Willian earned Ivan Rakitic a yellow card and Chelsea a free-kick in a very dangerous position. Marcos Alonso stepped up on the half hour mark but didn’t quite get it far enough in the corner, making it an easy gather for Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Willian looked to be Chelsea’s brightest spark and he managed to hit both posts within ten minutes. The first effort came after Eden Hazard lay off but his curling shot from long distance crashed off the woodwork.
The second was much the same but this time, the Brazilian shaped to curl it and instead rocketed it against Ter Stegen’s opposing pillar with the German’s goal just about defended for now.
After half-time, Luis Suarez showed the first glimpse of what he can do when he broke in behind the Chelsea defence for the first time but skewed his shot horribly wide.
You might have thought the crossbar was next on Willian’s hit list to complete the holy trinity, but it was the back of the net that was shaking after his shot in the 62nd minute put Chelsea ahead.
Cesc Fabregas played a short corner to Hazard who found the Brazilian on the edge of the box. He did fantastically well to move the ball out of his feet and bend a low drive round Antonio Rudiger, leaving Ter Stegen stranded.
The Blues attempted to solidify their lead and hold on until the end but Messi managed to score his first career goal against Chelsea in the 75th minute. A horrible stray pass by young defender Andreas Christensen along the edge of his own penalty area gifted the ball to Andres Iniesta who squared the ball for the Argentinian to emphatically finish.
If either team deserved to win it was Chelsea but a draw was probably the fair result on the balance of play. The two European titans will battle again at the Camp Nou on March 14.
Team to face Barcelona: Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.
Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Morata. #CHEBARpic.twitter.com/lzHoGYN626
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 20, 2018