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Champions League: Chelsea Defeats Barcelona In Stamford Bridge Shocker
Heading into their Champions League semi final clash, no one had given Chelsea much of a chance of pulling off the upset and beating the heavily favoured Barcelona. Yet on the strength of Didier Drogba's late first half marker the Blues pulled off a stunning 1-0 victory and now find themselves in the drivers seat, heading to Camp Nou.
Edmonton - April 19, 2012 - Heading into their Champions League semi final clash, no one had given Chelsea much of a chance of pulling off the upset and beating the heavily favoured Barcelona. After all, the English side had struggled all season long in the Premiership and currently sit sixth in league standings. Everything looked to be in the Spanish sides favour to have an easy go of things, on their way to their third final in four years. Unfortunately for Barcelona, no one let Chelsea in on the plan. On the strength of Didier Drogba's late first half marker and an unrelenting defensive formation, the Blues managed to pull off a stunning 1-0 victory and now find themselves in the drivers seat, heading into next Tuesday's second leg at Camp Nou.
While Barcelona carried the majority of the possession, as the usually do, they were unable to find the game's opening goal...despite have some quality chances. First, striker Alexis Sanchez hit the crossbar nine minutes in which was then followed by a critical miss from Cesec Fabregas, just before the twenty minute mark. Lionel Messi had worked his way past three Chelsea players and laid a drop pass to Andres Iniesta who was foiled by keeper Petr Cech but the rebound fell directly to Fabregas, who somehow shot wide on an open net from three yards out.
Despite being outplayed for the entire first half, it would be Chelsea whom would open the scoring on a rare blunder from Messi. The Argentine lost the ball just past the centre line to Frank Lampard, who quickly turned the ball up field and found the streaking Ramires with a beautifully placed lob. The speedy midfielder pushed the ball up the left side of the pitch and then laid an awkward looking but very effective cross to Drogba, who buried it past a helpless Victor Valdes in the Baca goal. It was the Blues first shot on target of the first half and would end up being the only ball they would get on goal for the entire match.
The Ivory Coast national found himself on the turf for much of the opening half but once given an opportunity, the talented striker rarely disappoints. The goal was Drogba's thirty-eighth Champions League marker of his career and only Messi has managed to find the back of the net more often since 2003-2004. Barcelona were by far and away the better side but the scoreboard said something completely different.
With the rain pouring down to start the second half, Barcelona kept coming while Chelsea played with all eleven players well behind the centre line. The Spanish side had the ball for what seemed to be the entire half but could generate very little, in what was suddenly an over crowded half of the pitch.
While the chances they did create were of decent quality, they lacked their usual clinical finish. Sanchez had wonderful opportunity twelve minutes in with only Cech to beat but made the goalkeepers life easy, by sending the ball wide of the target. Barcelona continued to push forward and would come close in the dying minutes to even the score but some great goalkeeping and good fortune was the difference.
First, Cech made a brilliant diving stop off a glancing Puyol header from a Messi free kick at the eighty-seventh minute mark. Then in extra time, Messi drove through the Chelsea penalty area that led to a superb chance for Pedro to find the equalizer. While his shot did beat Cech, it bounced off the woodwork and stayed out but then fell directly to Sergio Busquets just outside the six yard box. With the result literally on his boot, the Spaniard inexplicably sent it miles over the bar to clinch the win for the Blues. It was clearly not Barcelona's night but it was definitely a night to remember for everyone else in attendance at Stamford Bridge.
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