Antonio Conte’s Chelsea managed to produce a resolute defensive performance as they played out a 1-1 draw versus Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 first-leg. The Blues were deemed as under-dogs coming into the game, but they had the better chances of scoring throughout the game. Willian, who was the Blues’ standout performer on the night, netted the opener in the 62nd minute after hitting the woodwork on two previous occasions in the first period. However, the Blues could not hold onto their lead as a moment of defensive vulnerability saw them gift the ball to Andres Iniesta, who played on Lionel Messi to level the scores 15 minutes from time.
Three Things We Learned:
Lionel Messi breaks his duck: The Argentine had come into the game with the bizarre record of having failed to score in eight previous meetings versus the Blues. A similar evening looked upon him after struggling to find space in the Blues’ box, but a defensive lapse from the hosts allowed him to slot in a cool finish from 16 yards. Messi will hope to continue his form in the reverse leg in three weeks’ time.
Eden Hazard’s ineffectiveness upfront: Hazard was fielded in a false number nine role versus the Blaugrana, and this sort of restricted his movement. The Belgian was often found dropping deep to link up with Willian, and he did not look his yourself when he allowed to play freely on the left side of the attack. Alvaro Morata’s entry allowed him the freedom, but it was too late by then.
Willian standing out for Chelsea: Willian continued from whether he left off against Hull City as he bagged a crucial role in the second-half. The Brazilian saw two stunning strikes ricochet off the cross-bar during the first period, but he was third time lucky as he curled through the opener which Marc-Andre Ter Stegen could do nothing about. The winger had two chances to let N’Golo Kante free on goal, but his pass got intercepted.
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