Barcelona breezed past Chelsea to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening.
Lionel Messi, who put in an sparkling showing, grabbed the opening strike only three minutes into the clash with a low finish, before teeing up Ousmane Dembele for the second mid-way through the first-half. The Argentine capped a wonderful performance on the hour-mark with another clinical strike from close range as Ernesto Valverde’s men secured their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Messi magic seals perfect start
It was a nightmare start for Antonio Conte’s men as Messi opened the scoring with a low finish from a tight angle. After only three minutes, a wonderful one-two between the Argentine and Ousmane Dembele set the forward free. A fortunate deflection saw the ball fall to Luis Suarez who in turn played through Messi. He controlled and finished low through Thibaut Courtois’ legs.
Eden Hazard had the chance to equalise but a crucial block from Samuel Umiti kept the score at 1-0.
In the blink of an eye the advantage was doubled, and it was Messi who yet again played a key role. The talismanic forward evaded two Chelsea challenges before teeing up Dembele at the far post. The Frenchman took his time and smashed the ball into the top corner to notch his first-ever Barcelona goal.
Barca smell blood but Chelsea still probe
It could have been three soon after as Andres Iniestia released Suarez with a pin-point pass but Courtois produced an excellent stop to deny the ex-Liverpool man.
The best chances of the first-half for Chelsea fell to defender, Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard latched onto an excellent cut-back from Willian and looked set to score but an excellent save from Marc-Andre Ter Stegen halted the defender’s effort. N’Golo Kanté should have done better in the closing stages of the first period as he could only squirt an effort wide from close-range.
Alonso also crashed a free-kick off of the post as the sides headed back to the dressing rooms with the referee signalling for half-time.
English champions continue to create chances
The visitors begun the second-half in excellent fashion and could well have found the net. Alonso again raced free but an excellent challenge from Dembele ensured that the defender was not able to get a shot away. The Spaniard continued to cause huge problems for the Catalans and once again found himself with a run at goal but fell in the area following a challenge Piqué. Conte’s men loudly appealed for a penalty but the referee was unmoved.
A mistake from Courtois almost killed the tie as he passed the ball straight to Suarez. The former Atletico Madrid stopper though atoned straight away as he batted away the Uruguayan’s powerful effort.
Messi kills Chelsea with clinical strike
The tie was effectively ended with just under half an hour on the clock by Messi. The Argentine latched onto a perfect pass from Suarez, charged beyond the Chelsea defence and again finished low through the legs of Courtois to score his 100th Champions League goal.
Courtois had to be alert as Messi went hunting for his hat-trick from a free-kick. The Argentine saw his effort deflected but the stopper palmed the ball away confidently.
The Barcelona supporters afforded one of their former players a wonderful reception as Pedro came on to replace Eden Hazard. Barcelona could have scored a fourth with only minutes left on the clock as Paulinho found space from a corner. Courtois somehow tipped the Brazilian’s booming header over the bar.
Rüdiger did have a chance to at least get the visitors on the scoresheet in stoppage time but headed onto the crossbar with Ter Stegen flailing. The score line was more than enough however as the hosts secured a much-deserved place in the last eight.
Whilst Chelsea battled and fought at the Camp Nou, it was simply not enough to overcome the pure footballing magic of Lionel Messi. The Argentine was unplayable and his performance was the difference between the Blues and Barcelona.
Conte’s men did have their chances but were wasteful throughout the evening. The reigning Premier League champions are now forced to focus on the FA Cup as their only means of silverware.
Meanwhile, Barcelona can look forward to the draw for the quarter-finals where they will be joined by domestic rivals, Real Madrid and Sevilla.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (6); Roberto (7), Piqué (6), Umtiti (8), Alba (7); Busquets (7) (Gomes (6), 61′), Rakitic (7), Iniesta (7) (Paulinho (N/A), 56′); Dembele (7) (Vidal (6), 67′), Suarez (7), Messi (9).
Chelsea: Courtois (5), Azpilicueta (6), Christensen (5), Rüdiger (5); Moses (6) (Morata (5), 67′), Fàbregas (6), Kanté (6), Alonso (7); Willian (7), Hazard (6) (Pedro (N/A), 82′); Giroud (5) (Zappacosta (5), 67′).
Goals: Messi (3′, 63′), Dembele (20′)
Referee: Damir Skomina
Yellow Cards: Roberto (20′), Willian (45′), Giroud (49′), Alonso (75′)
Red Cards: N/A
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