Didier Drogba’s first-half goal handed Chelsea a 1-0 home win against Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
Drogba scored with a low finish after a great run and assist from Ramires who had received a long ball from Frank Lampard in a counter attack that followed an error from Lionel Messi.
Barcelona dominated the ball for most of the match and missed glorious chances while Petr Cech also put in an excellent performance to help Chelsea hold on to the 1-0 victory.
Alexis Sanchez flicked the ball to hit the bar on the ninth minute, just a minute before a promising Chelsea long throw caused disruption inside Barcelona’s penalty area.
Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas missed a chance in the 17th minute after miskicking the ball that came off the Chelsea defense following a shot by Andres Iniesta. Messi’s unmarked header 11 minutes later was saved by Cech.
Fabregas failed to convert another chance after his weak strike over Cech was cleared off the line by Ashley Cole at the 43rd minute of the first half. Two minutes into the stoppage time, Drogba scored the only goal of the match.
Sanchez could have leveled the game twelve minutes into the second half but he missed from six yards after a receiving a through ball from Fabregas.
Chelsea’s interim first-team coach Roberto Di Matteo made two changes in the final 20 minutes of the match, putting on Salomon Kalou in for Juan Mata and Jose Bosingwa in for Ramires as a defensive-minded Blues side looked to outmuscle the Catalans.
Meanwhile Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola made use of the allowed three changes in the second half, calling on Isaac Cuenca, Pedro and Thiago to replace Xavi, Alexis Sanchez and Fabregas, but could not change the unravel Chelsea’s game plan.
Guardiola also saw his side fail to make use of various chances from free-kicks, with Messi, Xavi and Dani Alves all disappointing for close range set pieces in the final 25 minutes.
A Chelsea counter attack could have put the game beyond doubt at 80 minutes after Drogba paced away but over hit a pass intended for Kalou, who was running through the middle. Midfielder-made-defender Javier Mascherano interfered and passed the ball back to goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Three minutes from time, a header by Puyol, who took advantage of a ball sent in from a Messi free kick, was saved by Cech.
Two minutes into the extra time and Barcelona still looked dangerous. Messi swarmed forward from the right flank, passed to Sergio Busquets who back heeled, only for Gary Cahill to intervene with a sliding tackle. But the ball dropped to Pedro, but his fine shot hit the post before Busquets blasts an easy chance over the bar.
The two teams are each set to face local rivals with Chelsea meeting Arsenal on Saturday as the teams battle for a fourth-spot finish while Barcelona face Real Madrid in a tie that could decide this season’s tight La Liga race.
Chelsea and Barcelona meet again in the second leg of the Champions League semi-finals on April 24 at Camp Nou.