Irresponsible errors in defence proved to be Chelsea’s downfall against a far more clinical Barcelona side at the Nou Camp.
The Blues put up a spirited performance against the Catalan giants, but silly mistakes in defence and a bit of magic from Lionel Messi proved to be their undoing. It was a performance that the Blues could be proud of, and the scoreline doesn’t quite reflect the reality of the match.
Chelsea are hardly dominated as one would’ve expected. With 44% possession, they saw a lot of the ball and even attempted more shots than their hosts. They defended decently for the most part, won the midfield battle and caused problems for Barcelona with their pace.
But out of the 14 shots they attempted, only 3 were on target. Barcelona, on the other hand, had 7 of their 8 shots on target and that proved to be the difference. Barcelona had four clear cut chances over the course of the game and they managed to get on the score sheet thrice.
The more clinical, defensively sound side emerged victorious on the night. While Chelsea can take positives from this tie such as the performances of Willian and Kante, they should have done much better with their defending and finishing and they now face an uphill task of qualifying for the Champions League via the league.
Thibaut Courtois: 4
The first was a terrible goal to concede, given the angle of the shot. Courtois got a palm to the second goal, but he couldn’t prevent it from going in. The Belgian messed up further by passing the ball straight to Luis Suarez 20 yards from goal before saving the subsequent shot.
Conceded the first third goals between the legs, both strikes from Lionel Messi. Could’ve done better for all of them. Got on the end of two shots, a Messi free-kick and a header from Paulinho. Not a good game for the Belgian at all.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 5
Turned over by Messi for the second goal and was caught flat footed for the third. Not a good performance from the Chelsea vice captain and it was a rare off day for him. Besides those two errors, it was a decent performance. Unfortunately for him and Chelsea, that off day came in a crucial knockout game at the Nou Camp.
Andreas Christensen: 5
The Dane’s lunge at Messi was evaded easily by the Argentine who subsequently went on to set up Dembele for the second goal. He could do nothing for the first or third goal though. It’s been a difficult time for Christensen, who’s suffered a dip in form over the past few weeks.
Antonio Rudiger: 6
Wasn’t at fault for any of the three goals. Rudiger met everything that came his way head on and didn’t let much past him. Had a late header smash off the crossbar.
Victor Moses: 5.5
Moses didn’t put in a good shift at right wing-back. Chosen to start ahead of Davide Zappacosta, the player couldn’t justify that decision. He managed to make some good overlapping runs, but lacked end product.
Could’ve made many more chances for his teammates had he been more accurate with his passing, but it ultimately proved to be a frustrating night for the Nigerian, who was hauled off for Zappacosta after 67 minutes.
Cesc Fabregas: 6
Fabregas let Messi steal the ball away from him rather easily, which eventually led to the second goal. The former Barcelona man created five chances for his teammates, and was his side’s most prolific passer on the night. He put in two crosses which couldn’t be converted, but also ended up misplacing too many passes for his usually lofty standards.
N’Golo Kante: 7.5
Kante was at his outstanding best at the Nou Camp. After the team sheet was out, it was sure that he would have to put on the defensive shift of his life, and he did just that. With 13 recoveries, 8 tackles and 4 interceptions, the Frenchman was at his very best.
His work ensured that Barcelona saw as little of the ball as possible and he didn’t allow the hosts to play any defence splitting passes. Kante’s presence also allowed Chelsea to get forward as much as possible and help transition from defence to attack. Made a good run into the Barcelona box, but his shot was blocked by an offside Cesc Fabregas.
Marcos Alonso: 7
Alonso was caught ball watching when he failed to notice Lionel Messi running in behind him for the first goal. He had a chance to make amends late in the first half, but his free-kick rattled off the post. Was wrongly denied a penalty early in the second half.
The Spaniard made three good tackles and while defensively his contributions were decent, he especially had a good game going forward. His forays forward kept Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto busy and after Willian, he was perhaps Chelsea’ biggest attacking threat.
Picked up a booking late in the first half for telling the referee how to do his job. That perhaps remains the only negative aspect of his game on Wednesday. His stunning ability to carry the ball out of defence was on display and he was the focal point of nearly every threatening Chelsea attack.
Willian completed a superb 7 take-ons and his bursts of pace caused Barcelona a lot of problems. They couldn’t seem to get a hold of the Brazilian when he was running with the ball. It was perhaps the Brazilian’s finest performance this season and alongside Kante, he was the Blues’ best player on the night.
Eden Hazard: 6.5
Hazard as at fault for losing Messi for the first goal. He started the game well enough, having a go at the Barcelona players, linking up with his teammates well and showing great energy. For most of the first half it looked as if he would certainly cause the hosts problems, but he faded out as the game went by.
Saw less and less of the ball as the game went on, but could have been better. Hauled off for Pedro in the 82nd minute.
Olivier Giroud: 6
The Frenchman had an extremely frustrating night. His hold up play wasn’t at its best and he couldn’t make an impact through set pieces. His movement wasn’t great and he seemed to lack understanding with Hazard and Willian on the night as he couldn’t combine with them well enough. Was taken off for Alvaro Morata in the 67th minute.