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As it happened: Chelsea vs. Barcelona

Apr 18, 2012, 1:49 PM EDT

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - FA Cup Semi Final Getty Images

Barcelona were stymied in their return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea getting a first half, injury time goal from Didier Drogba to outlast Barcelona. Here’s how it happened.

Score: Chelsea 1 (Drogba 45+2′), Barcelona 0

90+3′ - Unbelievable sequence. Messi rolls a ball in for Pedro, whose backheel seems to give Messi a golden chance, but Terry is there for a despeartion challenge. The ball is out to Pedro who puts it off the far post, with Thiago firing the rebound into the stands. Seconds later, the whistle blows, and Chelsea has done it. They’ve executed their plan perfectly and will go to Cataluyna with a 1-0 win.

90′ - Barcelona continues to possess, continues to wait for something to open up. Nothing is happening, though they’ve won a corner have Didier Drogba comes back to help a fallen Jose Bosingwa. Three minutes of extra time are announced before a Alves corner targeting Puyol is cleared. Mascherano tries to switch the clearance over to Cuenca, but it goes out for a throw.

88′ – Chelsea makes their second change. Ramires comes off. Jose Bosingwa is on.

87′ - Xavi, who played more than you might have thought ahead of Saturday’s Clasico, is off. Isaac Cuenca is one. On the restart, Messi swings a ball in for Puyol, who flicks toward the left post. A diving stop keeps the score even. (Xavi left having completed 128 passes)

86′ - There’s just nothing for Barcelona. They’re going to have to be more aggressive, because with nine Chelsea defenders at the edge of the area, they’re most than content to let Barcelona kick the ball around.

84′ - For the last three minutes, it’s been Barcelona retaining possession in their final third. Every time Chelsea rebukes them, Barcelona’s able to retain possession. Drogba’s frequently dipping into the final third, but Barcelona’s not generating chances. Finally, Chelsea earn a goal kick.

80′ - For a moment, every player on the field (save Victor Valdés) was within 45 yards of Chelsea’s goal. A second later, Chelsea’s bursting out of their own half, but it’s Drogba taking on the world. Kalou comes in from the right and tries to retrieve a ball, but Adriano is there to cut him off.

78′ - Barcelona’s second change: Cesc Fabregas is off after a decent day (even if he would have liked a goal). Thiago Alcántara’s on.

77′ - Messi’s spend a lot of his time in the second half trying to dribble through Chelsea’s defense. This time, Meireles leaves a leg in and gives up a foul 35 yards from goal. This is Dani Alves territory, but he blasts it into a three-man wall.

76′ - Busquets goes into the book. A burst out of Chelsea’s end saw Ramires with a head of steam down the left line. Busquest came across and slid through Ramires, who is still down. I’m sure Chelsea wouldn’t mind the rest.

75′ - Stats … Possession: Chelsea 29-71 Barcelona; Shots: Chelsea 4-19 Barcelona; Shots on target: Chelsea 1-5 Barcelona.

74′ - Mata’s off for Kalou. Juan may have just set a record for the fewest touches in the history of ever.

72′ - Salomon Kalou is about to come on. You could see Mata (invisible) or Ramires (carrying a card) coming off.

71′ - Another yellow card, as after a bad giveaway from Barcelona, Ashley Cole bring the ball into the attacking third, only to be brought down by Pedro, who’d been beaten. The restart gives Chelsea another chance to bring their defenders forward, but nothing comes of it.

69′ - Barcelona draw another foul, this time Ramires running through the back of Messi just outside the box. A yellow’s produced, which may be a bit harsh (but not unreasonable). Messi has a change from 19 yards, roughly even with Cech’s left post. Alves is also lining it up, but Messi runs over the ball and leaves it for Xavi, who puts it 5 feet over.

67′ - Drogba is down again, to the chagrin of Barcelona’s players, who are tired of play being stopped for him. He has been taken a few blows today. This time, the replays show he fell awkwardly while fighting a number of Barcelona defenders to win a ball coming out of his team’s end. Looks like a possible groin problem.

66′ - First change for Barcelona. Pedro is on for Sanchez, who had a tough day.

66′ - Messi has another run at Chelsea defense, with a midfielder sent to ground as he takes another run at Terry and Cahill. Back, back, back they go before Messi lets it go from 18 yards out. It’s blocked out of play.

65′ - Long ball out of Chelsea end, and Drogba goes a great job to win it and draw a foul. That’s the type of play that will get Chelsea to 90.

64′ - Handball against Mikel as Messi tries to flick the ball around the Chelsea midfielder. This is a very dangerous spot. It’s just to the right of goal and 23 yards out – a near perfect place for Messi. There’s enough roo to get it up and over the ball … but he can’t do it.

62′ – Messi picks up a ball just inside Chelsea’s half and has a chance to run at the defense. Just inside the penalty area, with three Blues around him, he tries to cut back onto his right foot. Cahill gets a crucial touch.

61′ - A Barcelona attack built through the right eventually leads to a Chelsea goal kick. Everybody but Drogba was in their penalty area when the ball went out.

58′ - Ball from the left sent through by Barcelona, but it’s a step behind Sanchez at the far post. Alves tries to come onto a shot but puts it into row 16.

58′ - Barcelona’s finishing has been a cause of concern all year, with many fearing the exact scenario we’re seeing to tonight. It’s not just that Barcelona’s failing to convert their decent chances. They’ve had great chances and hadn’t been able to open their scoring.

57′ - Barcelona with another great chance that goes wanting. Sanchez in fromt the right plays to Fabregas who pulls off a nice little scoop over Terry and Cole, delivering a golden opportunity for Sanchez. Alexis hesitates, allows Cole and Cech to close him out, and the ball’s played out for a goal kick. That’s two Alexis should have finished.

55′ - A giveaway by Mikel, a few touches from Barça, and Messi is running toward the defense. Terry and Cahill collapse into their own box as Messi lets one go from 18 yards. Blocked.

53′ - Corner kick from Chelsea sees Gary Cahill unmarked, running at the far post. The Lampard kick is just a little too high for Cahill’s outstretched leg, but Chelsea’s still showing that any time they can put the ball into the Barcelona area will create a dicey moment foe the Catalans.

52′ - One thing I’ve ruefully neglected to mention: It’s now raining at Stamford Bridge.

51′ - Great run by Adriano. The left defender gets the ball just inside Chelsea’s half, dribbles pst two defenders to the edge of the arc before trying to curl one inside Cech’s left post. A diving save and good clearance by Cech defuses the danger.

50′ - Barcelona with another corner kick, another try that’s dispensed without a second thought.

48′ - Chelsea’s defensive shape looks unchanged. They’ve got a midfield line of four in fron of Mikel, a line that collapses deep. A second ago, there were only a few yards between it and the defense.

46′ - They’ve restarted at Stamford Bridge with no chances. Not that either side need any. Barcelona have had three or four really good chances, while for Chelsea, this is just how their 180 minutes are going to be.

Halftime: Via UEFA’s stream, journalist Graham Hunter relays the scene from Stamford Bridge:

Whether the delirium unleashed after Didier Drogba’s fine goal here at Stamford Bridge is joy or relief is hard to tell. Barcelona have scorned three gaping chances and now the home side lead.

Halftime: Chelsea has to feel a bit fortunate that neither Fabregas nor Sanchez converted their chances, but that’s soccer. Chelsea’s executing the formula we’ve seen work for Rubin Kazan and (perhaps to a lesser extent) Inter Milan. They’ve been patient and waited for their chances. Pep Guardiola is going to be disappointed that the opener came after Barcelona gave up a ball they normally would not.

Halftime: Some numbers … Possession: Chelsea 32-68 Barcelona; Shots: Chelsea 3-10 Barcelona; Shots on target: Chelsea 1-4 Barcelona.

Halftime: Chelsea spent the first half hoping for a mistake, and right before time, they got it. A giveaway by Barcelona allowed Frank Lampard to spring Ramires, who set up Didier Drogba for the opening goal. This is how they drew it up, and after 45 minutes, Chelsea’s up one.

45+1′ - Chelsea is in front! Lampard with a nice ball from the center line out left finds Ramires, who has a ton of open space in front of him. Alves is way up field and Xavi can’t track him down, allowing Ramires to put the ball back across the six for Drogba, who puts home the opening goa. Chelsea 1, Barcelona 0.

45+1′ - Long ball from Terry to Ashley Cole, but the official’s flag goes up again. Chelsea’s had trouble with Barcelona’s line, and even when they’re able to play behind it, Puyol and Mascherano have proven too quick.

43′ - Barcelona comes within inches (ok, maybe feet) of scoring. They catch Chelsea on a counter, and Messi threads ball perfectly out to the left for Fabregas. Cesc chips Cech, but Cole gets there in time to clear it, about two feet before it crossed the line.

42′ - Barcelona wins a corner kick after a Alves cross is blocked out of play by Cole. Xavi’s restart is headed out, with Alves’ resulting shot going out for a goal kick. Barcelona doesn’t have a lot of chance at winning those balls. They mat as well play their corners short.

40′ - Another chance for a long throw from Ivanovic, with Drogba winning another header. Without Piqué, Barcelona doesn’t have anybody to contest the throw coming in from their left unless they want to have Puyol follow Drogba around.

38′ - Foul on Alves as he tries to retrieve a ball Mikel had won, and it gives us a good chance to note: Chelsea’s fouls have drastically slowed down since the opening minutes. Much of that is probably Barcelona settling into the game, spending less time surging, more time stretching the defense.

36′ - Funny moment where Puyol appears to be holding his right hand out, as if he’s hurt his wrist. John Terry reaches out and grabs it.

34′ - Something new from Barcelona: A chip from Messi over Ashley Cole for Dani Alves. Cole has to dive to put the ball out for a corner.

32′ - After kicking it around a bit, Barcelona sees Fabregas chip into the middle for Messi who spots Iniesta making a run at Cahill. Iniesta with a little dummy lets the ball run outside of Cahill, but Terry’s there to clear it out for a throw.

30′ - Chelsea has their longest spell of possession, stringing together eight passes but never approaching the center line. Terry eventually plays it up for Drogba but the whistle blows. Offside.

29′ - Fernando Torres is warming up.

28′ - The match is starting to play out as you’d expect, given Chelsea’s approach. They’re sitting very deep – often with nine men lined up in the eight yards outside their penalty area. Barcelona is kicking it around, tying to stretch the defense. That doesn’t mean Barcelona hasn’t had their chances. Fabregas just shoot Cahill to put a powerful left-footed shot right at Cech, while a cross from the right saw Messi put a strong header on goal, forcing a diving save.

26′ - Possession: 71% Barcelona. Shots: 5-1, Barcelona.

25′ - Xavi ties to hit Messi running through the left channel, but Cahill heads it away.

23′ - Chelsea tries to spring on a counter off a corner, but a poor Meireles pass gives possession back to Barcelona. Barça reestablishes themselves in Chelsea’s end, and with the Blues working to regain their shape, they give Barça a little too much time on the ball. Messi-to-Sanchez-to-Messi leads to a little through ball for Iniesta, but Cech is there.

20′ - Another long ball by Barce trying to get Fábregas through that left channel forces Cech to punch it out for the throw. That looks like it’s going to be a huge problems for Chelsea, particularly if Barcelona starts using Iniesta with support from Xavi to attack that spot. Barca’s last big chance came through that channel, and now Fabregas has almost purged it, twice.

18′ - Chelsea with another long ball. Drogba wins this, flicks on for Ramires coming in from the left, who causes some chaos before Alves puts it out for a throw. Ivanovic puts in another long throw that Barcelona looks uncertain under. This is all looking very Stoke-y.

17′ - Messi’s first shot of the match is blocked. Given the ball 22 yards out, he plays it onto his left foot only to see the ball sent back out. Barcelona regains possessions, moves into the left side of the box, where Messi puts Barcelona’s first shot on Cech. The ball’s blocked right to Fabregas, seven yards out, who can’t directed it into goal.

16′ - A surprisingly long ball from Barcelona tried to hit Fabregas running in the channel between Ivanovic and Cahill. Cech is there to scoop it up.

15′  - Drogba is down for a little, but it’s nothing serious. Trying to play a bouncing ball in midfield, the top of his foot hits Busquets’ knee. He’ll be fine.

14′ - Another Chelsea foul sees Meireles late challenging Busquets. Barcelona restarts, their possession number down to 74%.

12′ - First time play’s stopped for a while, and Alexis Sanchez is down. As the Chilean turned to mame a run, Terry stepped into his path and knock him on his backside. Sanchez gets up flexing his right leg as if he has a charlie horse.

11′ - A long throw from Ivanovic almost gives Chelsea the lead. No Barca defenders attack a ball that eventually drops at the edge of Cech’s six. Panic sees the ball eventually cleared, but Barcelona almost gifted Chelsea the first goal.

9′ - The first real chance to the night sees a ball chipped over the line for Sanchez, whose run into a space vacated by John Terry gives him a shot at an open goal (as Cech comes out).  The shot goes off the woodwork. Chelsea gets very lucky.

8′ - As expected, the whistles are coming quick, as Chelsea picks up their third foul. It’s nothing dirty on Chelsea’s part – just a function of Barcelona’s possession and aggression. The restart is put right at Cech for an easy catch.

7′ - The crowd gasps as Drogba touches the ball. That’s how it works. The big man touches it past Carles Puyol from 35 yards out but is shielded off the ball as Valdés claims it.

6′ - In the buildup we talked about watching Dani Alves, his positioning, to see what formation Pep Guardiola intends on playing.  To this point, he’s positioned as a wing back, leaving Barcelona 4-3-3.

6′ - Possession stat that just flashed on the screen: 83% for Barcelona.

4′ - Announcers mentioned it early, but tracking his movements, it’s holding true. Ramires is going to be asked to track countryman Dani Alves. Those two can run all day.

3′ - Long ball out of the back from Cech finds Didier Drogba, who was out of position to win that ball but outpaced Mascherano while it was in flight. His touch can’t settle it, and Valdés claims it.

2′ - Chelsea’s first touch came after 74 seconds, but the play was immediately whistled for a foul on BIvanovic. At 1:52, Ramires takes the ball off Messi. Chelsea finally have it.

1′ - Early on, Chelsea looks like they’re going to play a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1, with (left to right) Ramires, Meireles, Lampard and Mata in front of Mikel in midfield.

0′ - We’re off. Barcelona kicks off going left-to-right on your mental screen.

[limbo] - The teams are lined up on the field, and the Champions League anthem is playing. Cameras spent much of their time focused on Lionel Messi, dwarfed as he walked jaw-clenched beside Didier Drogba.

Handshakes are done. We’re about to start.

[limbo] - Start time is upon us, and the crowd at Stamford Bridge are waiting for the players to enter the arena. The teams are in the tunnel, lining up, with Terry and Puyols ready to lead their sides out.

5′ - Prematch footage show Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba giving very realistic assessments of what they’re up against. Barcelona is the best club in the world, they agree. Lampard called them the best team of his lifetime, though there was no fear in his face. His voice didn’t waiver. Instead, you had two men accepting the challenge and almost eager at the prospect of  doing something great.

-12′ - @ChelseaFC on Twitter has been posting pics throughout the day. Most are fan Twitpics of how they’re spending their time in the buildup to kickoff (though an interesting one snapped Bolton captain Kevin Davies at Stamford Bridge with his sons).

One that stuck out to me:

source:

It will look a little different to the players in a few minutes. The blue seats will be obscured by blue-clad supporters, though it’s good to know that the Road to Munich is also painted blue.

-20′ - Many of you have already seen this quote, but it’s still a good reminder of Roberto Di Matteo’s approach to these matches:

It’s fair to say we need two perfect performances, but the fact we have been performing so well over the past six weeks gives us the belief. I think Barcelona don’t like facing us – past results have shown that.

If he needs two perfect performances, it’s fair to say he’s picked (what he thinks is) his best team. So … Raul Meireles?

-25′ - This bit from Spain-based Guardian journalist Sid Lowe may provide some insight into Fernando Torres’ reaction to today’s lineup:

Drogba starts. Comes as a surprise to many … not least to Torres

(via Twitter, @sidlowe)

I think we all wish the best for Fernando Torres at this point, but he can’t be too surprised when Didier Drogba’s selected over him. Perhaps there was something said to Torres assuring him he’d start against his him country’s best – I don’t know. Even so, the selection (or, change of mind) can’t surprise that many.

-28′ - Also from UEFA, this little factoid:

[Barcelona and Chelsea] have faced each other ten times in UEFA competition and cannot be separated. Each has three wins apiece with four draws.

-29′ - A little bit from UEFA’s Trevor Haylett explaining why Gerard Piqué is on the bench (the rest, we kinda already knew):

Gerard Piqué, who has been struggling with a thigh injury, only makes the bench for Barcelona with Adriano coming into the starting XI. The other change from the side that beat AC Milan sees Alexis Sánchez preferred to Isaac Cuenca.

-42′ - Now Chelsea’s team:

G: Petr Cech
RB: Branislav Ivanovic
CB: Gary Cahill
CB: John Terry
LB: Ashley Cole
DM: John Obi Mikel
CM: Frank Lampard
CM: Raul Miereles
RF: Ramires
CF: Didier Drogba
LF: Juan Mata

Subs: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Essian, Malouda, Torres, Kalou, Sturridge

Chelsea fans aren’t going to be thrilled to see Raul Miereles, a player whose failed to replicate his Liverpool form since his summer move to London.

Other surprises? None, really. Some thought Torres might start, especially with Drogba getting the call on Sunday, but Di Matteo is willing to bet players like Drogba and Lampard can make the quick turnaround. You can’t help but think they’ll be on the bench this weekend against Arsenal.

Also, subs have been added to the Barcelona lineup, below.

-47′ - UEFA doesn’t have these on their site yet, but it’s floating around Twitter: Barcelona’s starting lineup.

G: Victor Valdés
RB: Daniel Alves
CB: Carles Puyol
CB: Javier Mascherano
LB: Adriano
CM: Sergio Busquets
M: Xavi Hernández
M: Andrés Iniesta
F: Cesc Fábregas
F: Lionel Messi
F: Alexis Sanchez

Subs: Pinto, Piqué, Bartra, Thiago, Keita, Pedro, Cuenca

That’s listed as a 4-3-3, but given how Dani Alves is deployed, it could play as a 3-4-3 or a 3-3-4 (or, as Jonathan Wilson confirmed yesterday, a re-inverted pyramid – 1-2-3-4 – with Mascherano sitting deeper than Puyol and Adriano).

And just as I go to hit “Update” on this post, UEFA has confirmed the lineups. Chelsea’s in a second.

-60′ - Welcome, all. We’re still about an hour from kickoff in West London.  Starting lineups should be out soon. Until then, we’ll be offering up the tidbits we get from Stamford Bridge: UEFA’s updates, experts vibing on twitter, and the random video or pic, as needed.

We’ll be with you from now until the final whistle (praying for as little controversy as possible). We’ll have post-match thoughts and reaction, but in the interim, you can check out:

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