Two Lionel Messi strikes, one very early in the game, and a goal from Ousmane Dembele, ensured a Champions League exit for the Blues on our return to Camp Nou.
A tough task after the 1-1 draw in the first leg was made all the harder by being 2-0 down before the halfway stage of the first period. We could have pulled a goal back before Messi scored his second goal of the match in the second half. Marcos Alonso hit the woodwork shortly before half-time and then had a big appeal for a penalty turned down not long after it. There were other good Chelsea moves and shots blocked but we went 3-0 down just past the hour and in the end could not find the Barcelona net, with Toni Rudiger adding to the woodwork in the closing minutes.
For this final second leg match of this Round-of-16 stage, Antonio Conte made one change from the side which had earned the draw at the Bridge in the first leg – Olivier Giroud coming in at centre-forward with Eden Hazard back out on the left. Barcelona’s skipper, Andres Iniesta, a pre-game injury doubt, was fit to start. They too made one change from Stamford Bridge, Dembele preferred to Paulinho.
Chelsea, not for the first time in this stadium, were resembling Real Madrid in our choice of kit, but hopes of a repeat of 2012 when we were also in white were dealt a heavy blow by such an early goal conceded.
We went behind after just two minutes played. There was a touch of fortune for the home side when a pass from Dembele inside our area ricocheted off Marcos Alonso back into the young Frenchman’s path but what followed was incisive. A back-heel to Messi, who had started the move, put him through on the right and from the tightest of angles, the Argentinean found a way past Courtois with his shot.
Though far, far from the ideal start for the Blues, we had needed a goal before the game started and one goal now without reply would still earn extra-time.
Willian had a free-kick from out wide deflected into the side-netting, and the Brazilian then tried to pick out Giroud with a cross after the centre-forward had nodded a ball on for Hazard to have a run. On eight minutes, Hazard found space through the middle and brought Moses into the attack. This was promising use of the ball. The initial response to going behind was not bad, but it needed to be very good.
Willian, from outside the area, drew the first save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen on 12 minutes and the Blues continued to push forward but in the 20th minute we were caught on the counter-attack. The ball was lost on halfway. Messi had space to run past Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta before switching play to the left. Dembele took one touch and then fired a shot that Courtois got a slight hand on but was powerless to prevent us going 2-0 down. The possibility of extra-time was no more.
Courtois, no stranger to playing in this stadium from his loan days with Atletico, was able to save well from Luis Suarez from close range.
With seven minutes to go before half-time, Chelsea worked two very good opportunities to score in quick succession, sadly neither taken. It was Willian who picked out Alonso in the box but the Spaniard’s firmly struck shot was saved, and then N’Golo Kante burst through and shot low across goal but wide.
On the stroke of half-time, Samuel Umtiti fouled Giroud just outside the box and in position for an Alonso strike at goal. He hit the free-kick sweetly, but agonisingly just a touch off target. It hit the outside of the post. What difference would grabbing a goal back at that stage had made?
The start to the second half did not lack for action. Courtois misplaced a pass to Suarez but then redeemed himself with the save, and Chelsea were denied after Hazard had pulled a ball down and passed to Giroud who looked to have played Alonso in, only for the wing-back to be denied but what has to be admitted was a superb tackle by Umtiti.
Alonso was on the ball inside the area again moments later, slipped through by Willian. He went down under challenge from Gerard Pique and a penalty could have been given, but not by this referee.
As the hour-mark drew near, Willian and Giroud misread each other’s intention and a promising counter broke down. It was Alonso again found free in the box soon after, this time by Fabregas, but his shot was blocked and it was not long before we were 3-0 down.
This goal was trademark Messi as Barcelona attacked down the middle through Suarez and found their talisman in the inside-left channel. He powered forward and then struck an angled drive, again scoring through Courtois’ legs.
Before the end our keeper made a quality save from substitute Paulinho’s header and Rudiger headed a late corner onto the bar but for Chelsea for the rest of the season, it is now all about progress in the FA Cup, beginning with our tie at Leicester on Sunday, and the quest for a top-four Premier League place and a return to this competition next season.
Chelsea Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses (Zappacosta 66), Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Hazard (Pedro 82), Giroud (Morata 66), Willian.
Unused subs Caballero, Cahill, Emerson, Bakayoko.
Booked Willian 45, Giroud 49, Alonso 75
Barcelona Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umiti, Jordi Alba; Dembele (Vidal 66), Rakitic, Busquets (Gomes 61), Iniesta (c) (Paulinho 56); Messi, L Suarez.
Unused subs Cillessen, Vermaelen, Digne, Alcacer.
Scorers Messi 3, 63, Dembele 20
Booked Roberto 22
Referee Damir Skomina from Slovenia.
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