Lionel Messi was able to salvage a crucial draw for the Barcelona side with his first career goal against Chelsea. Prior to this, the Argentine playmaker have played 8 times against the London side without recording a goal but finally netted to tip the tie in favour of Barcelona ahead of the second leg tie at the Camp nou. Messi’s drought against the London side was not for lack of trying as the 30 years old netted on his 30th attempt. The Equaliser became his 18th goal English opposition making him by far the most with only Ronaldo close to him.
Conte made a strong statement of intent coming into the game as the Italian left out Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata on the bench while fielding Eden Hazard in the No 9 Position. The Italian also took a mid-field pairing of Fabregas and Kante with Rudiger replacing Cahill in the back 3. Ernesto Valverde opted for a 4-3-3 with Iniesta pushed to the front 3. The game began in a slow tempo as the away side dominated possession with their popular Tiki-Taka game. It was not too long before Chelsea got into the game with Hazard taking the first shot for the host team. Paulinho had a chance to gift barca the lead but the Brazilian’s header was wide. Willian was denied from gifting Chelsea lead twice by the woodwork before the 40 minutes mark.
Hazard also was presented with the chance to score before the end of the first interval but the Belgian’s volley refused to hit the target. The Host period of persistent and precision paid off in the second half as Willian scored the goal in his 3rd time of asking. Ernesto Valverde responded by replacing Paulinho with Alex Vidal as he searched for away goals. Barcelona finally had its first shot on target after Saurez was able to dribble his way and had a shot at goal. Barcelona finally levelled on the 75th minute as Iniesta capitalize on Chelsea’s errors at the back to gift Lionel Messi and the argentine made no mistake with a first time shot to equalize for the away side. Conte replaced Pedro and Fabregas with Drinkwater and Morata towards the closing stages while Barcelona replaced Iniesta with Andre Gomez.
The result means that Chelsea must score in the reverse fixture at Camp nou to stand a chance of progressing to the next round. Barcelona will be happy with the result at Stamford bridge.