Chelsea is out of the Champions League after suffering a 3-0 defeat from the home team, Barcelona.
Antonio Conte’s side performed well over the two legs of
their Champions League last-16 tie but they were ruthlessly
punished for silly errors.
Lionel Messi wrote another chapter in his story as the
greatest footballer of all time with a marvellous display at
Camp Nou on Wednesday night but he could not have done
it without Chelsea, who contributed to their own downfall
with a succession of costly mistakes.
The Blues didn’t look significantly inferior to their
conquerors over the two legs of this Champions League
last-16 tie and the final 4-1 aggregate scoreline felt harsh.
However, Antonio Conte’s side undeniably lack the
ruthlessness and concentration required to win a trophy of
They may have worn their white kits in Catalunya, invoking
memories of that famous night in Catalunya in 2012
when they upset Barca on their way to winning the trophy,
but they got nowhere near emulating that success and,
frustratingly, they only had themselves to blame in that
Thibaut Courtois’s howler after two minutes and eight
seconds – the Chelsea No.1 was beaten at his near post by
low strike from Messi that the Belgian admitted afterwards
he simply hadn’t anticipated – made an already difficult task
close to impossible.
Lionel Messi then picked Cesc Fabregas’ pocket in midfield
before speeding past both Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas
Christensen to set up Ousmane Dembele for his first Barca
goal to leave the English champions needing to score twice
Marcos Alonso’s second-half error close to the right
touchline led to another goal for Messi, who once again fired
through the open legs of Courtois to kill all hope for the
It was another night where Messi set records for himself,
scoring both his fastest and then his 100th Champions
League goal. It also ended up being an emphatic end to
Chelsea’s eight-game unbeaten run against Barcelona, who
extended their unbeaten streak at home in the Champions
League to 25 games.
They were good value for the victory, having punished
nearly every single error the visitors made. Indeed, the only
mistake that the Blues got away with was when Luis Suarez
shot straight at Courtois, after the Belgian had gifted the
Blaugrana possession with a poor clearance.
Messi, though, was in no mood to pass up any chances. The
Catalan crowd had unfurled a banner before kick-off which
read ‘God Save The King’ and the Argentine attacker was
certainly at his majestic best against Chelsea, ending his
unwanted record of never having scored against the Blues in
emphatic fashion with three clinical finishes over the course
of the two legs.
Messi almost always takes his chances and that’s exactly why
Antonio Conte called for his team to produce two perfect
games to have any chance of navigating their way past one
of the favourites to win this year’s Champions League.
Despite two valiant efforts, though, the Blues were far from
In fairness, Conte had asked for his team’s opinion on the
line-up and playing style ahead of the return fixture and,
unlike the last time he did so, against Roma in October, it
Chelsea were good over both legs, with Conte slightly
altering the plan from the first to play Olivier Giroud up
front at Camp Nou, which led to the side using the ball a bit
Football is a cruel game, though, and Chelsea didn’t really
have their fair share of luck, striking the woodwork four
times, as well as having a solid penalty appeal turned down
in the second half in Catalunya.
But the game is decided by little details at this level of the
game and despite huge performances from the likes of
Willian, N’Golo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta over two legs,
Chelsea didn’t do enough to win.
Obviously, unlike Manchester United, they can at least exit
the Champions League with their heads held high but their
last-16 elimination will no doubt sting, primarily because
they will know that this defeat had as much to do with their
own mistakes as the magnificent Messi.