Apr 18, 2012, 5:04 PM EDT
Man of the Match: Chelsea got good performances from all of Petr Cech, Frank Lampard, and Ramires, but for the second time in four days, their main man is Didier Drogba. While some expressed surprise he was chosen over Torres – particularly after playing late Sunday – Drogba again showed why he has to play every important game. His first half goal was the match’s only score, while his holdup play gave Chelsea’s defense their only reprieves. In the end, Drogba dropped back and joined his teammates, helping see out the last minutes from his own end.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Want to relive it? Here’s PST’s play-by-play.
- Omnipotent? At times. Perfect? No. Lionel Messi’s giveaway led to the match’s only goal, with Frank Lampard playing a quick, precise ball wide to Ramires to spring the game-winning counter.
- You’re going to hear a lot of “Barça were the better side.” Maybe, but I don’t want to hear it. Chelsea executed their plan to perfection, and although Barcelona had a number of chances to get on the scoresheet, it’s not like they bombarded Chelsea. The Blues deserve the credit for a result that played out exactly as they’d planned, even if that plan doesn’t always pan out.
- Some numbers: Barcelona had 72 percent of the possession, outshot Chelsea 24-8, played 13 shots on target to Chelsea’s three, and completed 782 passes to Chelsea’s 194. Clearly, the Catalans were capable, but going into the match, Chelsea both would have guessed the numbers would have played out this way and would have been willing to take their chances.
- It was clear early on how Chelsea wanted to play this. John Obi Mikel played in front of the defense, behind a line of four more than willing to collapse to the edge of their own box. Didier Drogba was left stranded, a gamble that paid off for the Blues.
- Barcelona has to look at Alexis Sanchez, who missed two easy opportunities, and Cesc Fabregas. Fabregas had a good game creating for others, but the couple of chances he had (while not as easy as Alexis’s) could have given Barcelona a goal.
- Petr Cech’s performance should not be overlooked. There weren’t any saves that will go in his career highlights, but given the sure number of times he was called on to make key saves or come off his line to swallow up through balls, Cech deserves to take pride in his clean sheet.
- For a team with Chelsea’s skill set, this is exactly how you have to play Barcelona. Unfortunately, it’s not a foolproof plan. Barcelona created a lot of good chances but failed to convert. It’s hard to see Chelsea being as lucky next Tuesday; however, with a one goal lead, they’ll be able to pack it in from the opening whistle. Over the last half hour of this match, it was unclear Barcelona had any idea of how to break them down. Will they figure it out, given 90 minutes?
- Getting Gerard Piqué healthy may be crucial. Tonight, they could have thrown him and Carles Puyol into the box over the last 15 minutes and tried to knock something down for Messi and Andrés Iniesta. If times get desperate next week, we’ll probably see Guardiola resort to it.
- Chelsea has six days to plug the hole between Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic. Barcelona was able to create a number of their chances through that channel. Up one goal at kickoff next week, you could see Frank Lampard play deeper in an attempt to plug it.
- It’s a great day for Chelsea, but they still have to be considered underdogs. If this match plays out again on Tuesday, Barcelona likely goes through. Chelsea has to play slightly better, but after one leg, they’re more than half-way home.
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