Chelsea 1 Barcelona 1
Lionel Messi last night broke his 730-minute goal drought with a strike that drove a dagger into the heart of Chelsea’s Champions League ambitions.
The Argentine levelled for Barcelona 15 minutes from time at Stamford Bridge, after a wayward pass from Andreas Christensen was pounced on by Andres Iniesta.
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His assist to Messi was driven low past Thibaut Courtois for an equaliser that gives the Spaniards the advantage when they meet at the Camp Nou for the second leg of their last-16 tie on 14 March.
It was bad luck for the Blues, who until that point had looked like a good bet to win. Messi and Luis Suarez had been comfortably contained, and the hosts had created several chances, notably through Willian, who rattled the post twice in the first half.
The Brazilian finally found the net on 62 minutes with a crisp strike from the edge of the area, but Chelsea failed to defend their lead for long. The side must now travel to Barcelona and try to recreate the spirit of 2012, the year they beat the Catalans in the semi-final of the Champions League.
“I think we were close to playing the perfect performance,” said Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. “We did one mistake but we know very well against these opponents and players like Messi, Iniesta and Suarez if you make a mistake, you pay.”
Describing himself as “disappointed” with the result, Conte nonetheless struck an upbeat note ahead of the second leg.
“I think we played a really good game and I must be pleased because my players gave a great effort and they followed the plan we prepared,” said the Italian. “In Barcelona we must be prepared to suffer together, but at the same time when we suffer we must continue to try and get the chances to score.”
Meanwhile, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde was understandably delighted with the night’s work.
“The good thing is that we managed to get an error out of them and we got an equaliser,” he said. “We go back to the Camp Nou happy… we will see what happens in the return leg. The away goal was not definitive but it was significant.”
Bayern batter Besiktas
While it’s still all too play for in Barcelona next month, the same can’t be said of the return leg between Bayern Munich and Besiktas, after the Germans thrashed their Turkish visitors 5-0 at the Allianz Arena.
The Turks went a man down on 16 minutes, when Domagoj Vida was dismissed, and thereafter it was all one-way traffic, with the Germans peppering the visitors goal with 35 shots in all.
Five found the net, with Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski scoring doubles and Kingsley Coman also hitting the target.
Barring an epic fightback from Besiktas on 14 March, the Germans are set to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for a seventh year in a row when they travel to Istanbul.
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