All the numbers pointed to a Barcelona victory over Chelsea in their opening Champions League soccer semifinal except the final score.
Chelsea beat the defending champion 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in London last night with its only shot on target as Didier Drogba’s goal in first-half stoppage time sent Barcelona to its only loss in 11 Champions League games this season.
“Against Barcelona you have to do a lot of defending and be clinical when you get your chances,” Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo said in a news conference. “My players have shown the determination they have, with the courage to play against the top team in the world.”
Barcelona, seeking its fourth title in Europe’s elite club competition in seven seasons, failed to score after having 72 percent of possession and a 24-5 advantage in attempts on goal, including two that struck the frame of the goal.
The return game is April 24 at the Camp Nou. The winner over two matches advances to the May 19 final in Munich against Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, which trails 2-1 in that matchup.
“We played well, created 24 chances and still lost,” said Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola. “We need to create 24 more chances at home in the return and hope that some go in.”
Chelsea thwarted a Barcelona team that, along with Real Madrid, has scored a competition-leading 33 goals. The Blues allowed the Spanish champion six attempts on target, including just one from Lionel Messi, who’s scored 63 goals this season.
“We prepared for that,” Di Matteo said of Barcelona’s attacking prowess. “We looked very organized. The boys were determined not to let them through.”
Chip Hits Crossbar
Barcelona, seeking to become the first team to win the Champions League two years in a row, dominated from the start as Andres Iniesta lofted a ball over the defense for Alexis Sanchez, whose chip over goalkeeper Petr Cech hit the crossbar.
Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas shot wide of the far post and Cech went down to grab Messi’s header. Fabregas then lifted a ball over Cech late in the first half, which Ashley Cole cleared off the goal line.
Chelsea took the lead in the final seconds of first-half stoppage time as Ramires took a pass from Frank Lampard down the left side and crossed to Drogba, who beat Victor Valdes from close range.
“Chelsea took advantage of the chance that they had, while we were lacking that killer instinct in front of goal,” Iniesta said on UEFA’s website.
Cech Saves Chelsea
Barcelona’s pressure continued in the second half with Adriano forcing Cech into a diving save before Sanchez shot wide and Dani Alves sent a shot over. Xavi Hernandez then put a free kick from just outside the area well over goal.
Cech rescued Chelsea in the 87th minute when he dived to his right to knock away Carles Puyol’s flicked-on header. Pedro Rodriguez then hit the post in injury time and Sergio Busquets sent Barcelona’s final chance on the rebound well over the goal.
Historically in European club competition, a 1-0 home victory in the opening match has given teams a 58 percent chance of winning over the two matches against 42 for the away team, according to Infostrada Sports.
“The away leg will be a very tough game,” Chelsea captain John Terry said. “They will have lots of chances on their big pitch. We respect them but we’re not in awe of them.”