Lionel Messi scored for the first time against Chelsea as Barcelona came from behind to take a vital away goal into the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.
Willian hit the post twice but finally found the net with what looked to be the winning goal, only for Messi to score for the first time in six games to earn a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, leaving the clash finely balanced.
Chelsea and Barca were facing each other for the 13th time in the Champions League, renewing their rivalry after a classic semi-final clash in 2012, and for much of the contest there was nothing between the sides despite Barca’s inevitable dominance of the ball.
Barcelona had 75 per cent possession in the first half but the Catalans were perhaps fortunate to go into half-time level, Willian having been denied by the woodwork on two occasions.
He fine-tuned his radar after the interval, however, rifling home into Ter Stegen’s bottom-left corner to give Chelsea the lead.
One chance, one goal. That is all he needs. And Lionel Messi got it because he, along with Barcelona’s immense forward drive, terrifies the opposition, defenders in possession in particular. Andreas Christensen hadn’t looked happy with the ball at his feet all night.
He had already sliced one attempted pass behind him for a corner. Yet Chelsea kept trying to play their way out of trouble as Barcelona harried and chased. Eventually, something gave. Christensen received the ball deep on the left and played a suicidal pass across his own defensive ranks to the right side. Miscued, misplaced it turned into a 50-50 for Cesar Azpilicueta, one the Chelsea man could not hope to win.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
CHELSEA XI: Courtois 6.5, Azpilicueta 7.5, Christensen 6, Rudiger 7, Moses 7.5, Fabregas 6.5 (Drinkwater 83), Kante 6.5, Alonso 6.5, Willian 9, Hazard 8, Pedro 6 (Morata 83).
Subs not used: Caballero, Giroud, Zappacosta, Cahill, Hudson-Odoi.
Goals: Willian 62.
Bookings: Rudiger, Morata.
Manager: Antonio Conte.
BARCELONA XI: Ter Stegen 5.5, Segi Roberto 7, Pique 6.5, Umtiti 6, Alba 7, Rakitic 6.5, Busquets 6.5, Paulinho 6.5 (Vidal 63), Messi 8, Luis Suarez 6.5, Iniesta 7 (Gomes 90).
Subs not used: Cillessen, Denis Suarez, Dembele, Digne, Vermaelen.
Goals: Messi 75.
Bookings: Rakitic, Suarez, Busquets.
Manager: Ernesto Valverde.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).