Chelsea will be heading to Camp Nou with a lead in their UEFA Champions League tie after pulling off a fantastic 1-0 win over Barcelona on Wednesday night. The visitors created an incredible amount of chances and had an unbelievable 80 percent of the possession, but never found the back of the net. Didier Drogba scored the winning goal, capping off a brilliant counter in first half stoppage time.
The first half was all Barcelona until Drogba's goal at the very end of the period. Alexis Sanchez had the first big chance of the match in the 9th minute, when he chipped Petr Cech and hit the crossbar. A minute later, Gary Cahill shot just wide on a long throw for Chelsea. This would be one of just two real chances for Chelsea in the first half.
Barca had 75 percent of the possession in the first 45 minutes and plenty of chances, the best of which was a bad miss by Cesc Fabregas on a wide open net in the 17th minute. Fabregas and Lionel Messi would force saves out of Cech later in the half, but they could never get one past him. It appeared that the two teams were going to coast into the half tied at 0-0 as stoppage time began, but then a strange sequence of events took place.
At the beginning of stoppage time, Messi lost his footing and went down awkwardly, appearing to injure himself. He continued to play, and shortly afterwards, gave the ball away to Chelsea. Frank Lampard instantly turned defense into attack with a terrific long ball to Ramires, who got away from everyone with a blistering run. He played a perfect cross to Drogba at the far post, and he finished off the chance to give Chelsea a stunning 1-0 lead heading into the break.
It was raining at Stamford Bridge to start the match, but over the halftime period, the rain picked up significantly. That made the second half a much sloppier affair than the first, and for most of the half, it appeared to benefit Chelsea. Messi remained in the game and played well, but didn't appear as sharp as he did in the first half.
On a great surge forward from his left back position, Adriano created the first big chance of the second half. He cut inside and dribbled through four Chelsea defenders, then unleashed a hard drive at goal. It was hit with enough pace that Cech could only punch it away, but the shot was always right at him.
Gary Cahill had an absolutely massive minute for his club in the 55th minute, putting together his best sequence in what was a very good performance in place of the injured David Luiz. He first made a block on a shot by Messi, then after Barcelona recovered and got the ball to the feet of Alexis Sanchez in the box, made a brilliant late tackle to prevent him from getting a shot away.
Two minutes later, there was a massive let-off for Barca as Sanchez missed a big chance for the second time in the game, which likely led to his eventual removal for Pedro Rodriguez. Fabregas set up the chance with a great chip over the top of the defense to Sanchez, but his first chance let him down and he was never positioned well for his shot, which he put wide.
After that, all of Barcelona's best chances came on free kicks as Chelsea slowly settled into the game and began to keep their defensive shape better. It took them 30 minutes to look composed and get completely organized in the first half, but it took them just over 10 minutes to do the same thing in the second half.
Barcelona came extremely close to an equalizer in the 86th minute on one of the 12 free kicks that they were awarded during the match. Messi chipped in a great ball for Carles Puyol, who did well to make space for himself and direct a header towards the net, but Cech made an absolutely brilliant diving stop.
Just like the last time Barcelona were at Stamford Bridge, they were given three minutes of stoppage time to find an equalizer. Unlike that game in 2009, Andres Iniesta did not put a magnificent shot into the roof of the net. Chelsea held on even as Barcelona put everyone forward with reckless abandon, hitting the post on one occasion in the third minute of stoppage time. Pedro hit the post with an effort from 15 yards that hit the post, and Sergio Busquets smoked his attempted over the crossbar on the rebound.
Miraculously, Chelsea take a vital 1-0 victory to the Camp Nou for the second leg. They deserve credit for how well they played, but it seemed like it was only by some kind of divine intervention that Barcelona failed to score.
You can find all of our previous pre-game updates and live game coverage in our Chelsea vs. Barcelona, UEFA Champions League Semifinals StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.