Andres Iniesta was at his industrious best as he teed up Lionel Messi to help Barcelona draw against Chelsea in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League.
Barcelona came into the match well aware of their woeful record at Stamford Bridge. And, it was the home side with the impetus early on. But, a couple of clear chances came Barcelona’s way, although the players were unable to apply the finish.
The visitors continued to be bogged down in the second half as well and only regained their attacking pedigree after falling behind to a brilliant Willian effort. Despite their efforts to earn the equalizer, it was a mistake that Andres Iniesta capitalised upon to set up Lionel Messi to make it 1-1.
The match ended with the same scoreline and we now take a look at how the players fared individually.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 5.5
Despite being at the end of more attacks, surprisingly, he was a spectator for most of the match. As for the Willian goal, he could not have done much to save it, with a flock of players ahead of him blocking his vision. An underwhelming performance.
Sergi Roberto – 7
Roberto was a lively presence on right. Although he had to do more defensively than in attack, he did go about his job well. Kept Pedro silent for almost the entire game, with most of the attack brewing on the other side. A good display.
Samuel Umtiti – 7
What else can i say about SAMUEL UMTITI… CLASS… 🙌🙌🙌
— SuCcEsS…..🙏 (@EMEXBEST) February 20, 2018
Another good performance from a player who has only grown in reputation and stature with each passing match. Kept Hazard silent for a good part, which saw the Belgian fall deep to get on the ball and try to influence the game.
Gerard Pique – 6.5
While Pique was equally solid, it was his lack of presence on set-pieces that disappointed us. In fact, Pique did well to get on the end of a ball inside the box, only for him to get the header woefully wrong, although, Rudiger did do enough to distract the Spaniard.
Jordi Alba – 6
Alba was just unable to track Willian as the Brazilian cut inside and wreaked havoc, finding space between Barcelona’s midfield and defence. But, in the second half, especially after Barcelona conceded the goal, the left-back surged ahead at every moment providing much-needed impetus in attack. Overall, a decent performance.
Paulinho – 5
A performance to forget for the Brazilian. Paulinho was largely insipid in attack and did miss an easy chance to score in the first half. Will raise questions as to why Valverde preferred to field Paulinho over the more explosive Dembele.
Ivan Rakitic – 6.5
A masterclass from Rakitic, who sprayed the ball with ease and dominated the midfield for Barcelona. His set-pieces were also decent and could have resulted in a goal on two different occasions. Overall a good performance, although, would have liked to be more productive with his passes.
Sergio Busquets – 6
While he did go about his job well and was masterful in sniffing out danger with 6 tackles to his name, it was his inability to close down Willian that led to Chelsea’s only goal of the match – a thing which would have been avoided had Busquets been more active in closing down the Brazilian.
Andres Iniesta – 8
My favorite part about this game is that the guy, who is considered old, bald, and not very tall or fast, is the best player on the field.
I love you, @andresiniesta8.
You give hope to all of us.
— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) February 20, 2018
Iniesta has revelled in his newfound position on the left of a 4-man midfield. Fielding Iniesta as a wide midfielder, Valverde has unlocked the Spaniard’s potential to dribble past defenders with ease while also not burdening him with the responsibility of providing the pace in attack. Another brilliant display from the veteran, who seems to be ageing like fine wine.
Luis Suarez – 6.5
Not what we have come to expect from the Uruguayan. Suarez did not have much impact in the game and was largely missing. Disappointing.
Lionel Messi – 6.5
It looked set to be another frustrating night at the Bridge for Messi, who was dispossessed more than any other player on the pitch. Chelsea defended in flock against the Argentine and made it impossible for him to be at his best. But, he did showcase his abilities on occasion, with a darting run in the first half a perfect example of what he can produce.
Was kept silent for most of the night, but was ultimately the man to provide Barcelona the equalizer and on a personal level, be able to finally end the dud he had against Chelsea. Will be looking to produce a much improved performance at the Nou Camp.
Aleix Vidal – 6
Ernesto Valverde really doesn’t value Ousmane
— Babes Wok’shima (@Its_kagiso) February 20, 2018
Another choice that was baffling, considering he had the explosive Ousmane Dembele on the bench. With Barcelona falling behind, many would have expected Valverde to bring on Dembele and not the under-fire Spaniard, who did do well but failed to have much of an impact.
Andre Gomes – N/A
Came on in stoppage time for Andres Iniesta.
Ernesto Valverde – 5
Valverde stuck to his 4-4-2 formation but the choice of starting Paulinho on the right backfired. His decision to bring on Aleix Vidal in place of the Brazilian was also a choice that raised eyebrows. Ideally, should have gone with a 4-3-3, given Chelsea’s recent record. His inexperience in the UEFA Champions League showed on Tuesday and he will definitely learn from his mistakes.