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|Champions League Special: Five observations as Chelsea stun reigning champions Barcelona at the Bridge|
Chelsea are one step closer to the Champions League final following their 1–0 home win over current cup holders Barcelona. SoccerAnchor's Paul Bastin analyses five key observations to take from the game...
The Spanish giants had a myriad of chances to not only take a lead back to the Camp Nou, but to effectively finish the tie. Instead, Chelsea hold the upper hand from Didier Drogba’s strike. Here are some of the key points to take from the game:
1. Lack of polish: Rarely would you even dare suggest that a Barcelona side would lack the clinical touch required to hit the back of the net, but that’s the difference between them being one down in the tie rather three or four to the good. Alexis Sánchez hit the bar early, Cesc Fábregas missed glaring opportunities and other threatening moves eventuated to nothing. 24 goal attempts compared to four tells the story of their dominance without reward.
2. Chelsea living dangerously: Chelsea largely allowed Barcelona the passing game that sends shivers down defensive spines. With a whopping 79% of possession away from home, Barca intricately played to feet, as they do better than any side in the world, and created openings. This heaped pressure on the likes of Gary Cahill and John Terry at the heart of Chelsea’s defence. While Barcelona didn’t make them pay on this occasion, Chelsea must press harder on the ball in midfield when they meet next, otherwise they could find the door to the final closing very quickly.
3. Defensive cohesion: Although the scoreline could easily have been different, Chelsea would be pleased with the way their defensive structures held up under enormous duress. The physical presence of Ivanovic, Cahill and Terry were important in halting many foray’s forward from the creative genius of Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi amongst others. Yes, had Barcelona taken their chances it would be more difficult to find praise for Chelsea’s defensive efforts, but the fact is that Petr Cech and his men kept a clean sheet against one of the most potent attacks we’ve ever seen. Barcelona would also be predominately satisfied with their defence, which can be their achilles heel at times. They only allowed one shot on target, but unfortunately for them, that lonely opportunity led to the game’s only goal.
4. The value of big game players: Cometh the hour, cometh the man. While Lionel Messi has single handedly won important matches for his side on many occasions during this Champions League campaign, it was Didier Drogba’s turn to prove the difference between the two sides. The experienced Ivorian has proven his worth on the big stage before, and did it again by being in the right place at the right time to provide the winning strike. The strength and reliability of Drogba was certainly crucial in the result.
5. Lionel Messi: There is always so much focus on the Argentine superstar, and rightly so. He is so damaging and often unstoppable. Any match where he doesn’t provide a goal or assist is almost considered a failure, such is his consistent brilliance. Quelling Messi’s impact is the hardest of jobs and Chelsea would be satisfied with the way they denied him to reach his lofty standards.
Both sides would fancy their chances heading into the final leg in Barcelona. Chelsea hold a hard earned lead and would be confident of maintaining the advantage, while Barcelona will back their ability to complete their sights on goal with greater precision.
What are your thoughts on Chelsea's memorable win? Have your say below...