Chelsea stun Barca
LONDON – Didier Drogba fired the only goal of the game to make it advantage Chelsea in their Champions League semi-final with Barcelona.
The Ivorian striker, who spent much of the night on the deck, swept home on the stroke of half-time in a pulsating match at Stamford Bridge.
Barca dominated possession, but a second half rearguard denied the Catalans an away goal ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg at the Nou Camp.
And Pep Guardiola’s men could easily have snatched a late equaliser, with substitute Pedro hitting the post and Sergio Busquets blazing over the rebound.
Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo had kept faith with Drogba and recalled Raul Meireles, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic.
Former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas started for Barcelona but there was no place in the visitors’ starting line-up for defender Gerard Pique, who was named on the bench.
Fabregas had taunted Chelsea over their long-ball tactics in the build-up, but they were effective early on with Drogba twice coming close to carving out a chance.
But Barca dominated possession and came within a whisker of scoring in the ninth minute when Iniesta chipped the Chelsea defence to release Alexis Sanchez — but his lob struck the bar.
Messi had been having a quiet game until the 18th minute when he beat three Chelsea players and found Iniesta.
Cech palmed the midfielder’s shot straight in to the path of Fabregas — but he shinned his shot wide.
Iniesta turned Cahill brilliantly before going down under pressure from the England defender. Iniesta appealed for a penalty but referee Felix Brych waved play on.
The Spaniards were content playing some patient build-up play but they tested Cech twice within a matter of minutes around the half hour mark.
The goalkeeper saved at his near post from Fabregas and then dived to his right to stop a Messi header.
Ashley Cole put in a crucial block to deny Dani Alves as Barca continued to dominate the game.
With three minutes of the half to go, Messi dispossessed John Obi Mikel and found Fabregas, who lifted the ball over Cech, but Cole sprinted back to clear off the line.
Then with 10 seconds of the first half left Drogba gave the hosts a shock lead.
Lampard found Ramires, he raced down the left and crossed to the back post where Drogba slotted home beyond Victor Valdes.
Barca continued to dominate possession at the start of the second period and once again threatened through Messi, who would have hit the target had it not been for Cahill’s block.