Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Chelsea's Shrewd Planning Rewarded; Chelsea 1 Barcelona 0

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Chelsea's Shrewd Planning Rewarded; Chelsea 1 Barcelona 0

Article excerpt

CHELSEA produced the kind of "perfect" performance Roberto Di Matteo had demanded last night to inflict Barcelona's first Champions League defeat of the season and give themselves real hope of reaching the final.

The Blues once again proved the nemesis of the team feted by many as the greatest to play the game thanks to an amazing smash-and-grab display in the semi-final first leg at a jubilant Stamford Bridge.

Caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo's plan paid off spectacularly, Didier Drogba scoring the winner to go some way to burying the demons of the sides' last meeting three years ago.

As well as being magnificent to a man in carrying out the instructions of Di Matteo - whose claim to be appointed manager on a full-time basis is becoming irresistible - Chelsea also enjoyed the kind of luck that deserted them in 2009 and which they have had in spades since the Italian took charge. They may need plenty more at the Nou Camp on Tuesday to reach their second final after Barca missed a glut of chances after dominating possession from start to finish. The pattern of the match was set the moment the visitors kicked off, Chelsea allowing them possession to a point and Raul Meireles leading the pressure behind Drogba.

Luck played a part in the ninth minute, Alexis Sanchez chipping against the crossbar from Andres Iniesta's perfectly-timed pass.

Another two chances both fell to Cesc Fabregas courtesy of Lionel Messi, who was otherwise restricted to a quiet half. The first was a sitter, Fabregas shanking his finish after Messi's burst and pass had set up Andres Iniesta for a shot Petr Cech parried.

Messi finally had the chance to build up a real head of steam two minutes before half-time, Fabregas producing a delightful dink which was only kept out by Ashley Cole's clearance off the line.

Drogba, who got away with overstepping the mark when he trod on Sergio Busquets' foot, failed to make the most of a one-on-one with Carles Puyol.

Long throws predictably unsettled Barca, too, and Gary Cahill almost took advantage of the first of them. Chelsea did tread a fine line discipline-wise, with Meireles lucky not to pick up a booking that would see him suspended for the second leg. …

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