Soccer Magazine

Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona: Drogba Strike Ensures Blues Take Champions League Semifinal Lead to Camp Nou

By Sungame31 @sungame31

CL - Chelsea FC v Barcelona, Didier DrogbaCL - Chelsea FC v Barcelona, Didier DrogbaDidier Drogba produced a crucial goal on the counterattack to top off an excellent defensive display as Chelsea
 took a 1-0 lead overBarcelona
 in their Champions League semifinal at Stamford Bridge.

Alexis Sanchez hit the bar early on and Cesc Fabregas had a weak effort cleared off the line before Drogba finished a smart break in first-half stoppage time.

The Blues then shut Barca down effectively in a chance-scarce second period, until Pedro hit the post and Sergio Busquets launched the rebound feebly over at the death.

The stunning opener against Tottenham on Sunday convinced Roberto Di Matteo to pick Drogba up front at Fernando Torres’ expense, with Gary Cahill replacing the injured David Luiz. Raul Meireles and Branislav Ivanovic were also both recalled.

Pep Guardiola opted for Javier Mascherano ahead of Gerard Pique at center back, with Fabregas starting against a Blues side he knows well and Lionel Messi seeking to end a record of six games without scoring against Chelsea.

Barca immediately began dominating possession but Drogba posed problems early on, a canny flick to burst free of Mascherano let down when the remaining defender, Puyol, intercepted his looser second touch.

The visitors’ patient build-up was suddenly punctuated, though, by an Andres Iniesta through-ball that bypassed Chelsea’s defense and found Sanchez free in the area. He deftly dinked it over Petr Cech but unluckily saw it come back off the crossbar.

A hairy moment in the opposite box followed when Chelsea’s long throw almost broke for John Terry, but Dani Alves just scraped it away in time.

Barca was not yet producing its best but should have been in front after 16 minutes. Messi dragged two defenders out of the way before cutting back to Iniesta, whose shot was parried by Cech. The rebound came to Fabregas but he inexplicably miskicked wide.

Midway through the half Barca was slowly turning up the pressure. First Fabregas forced a near-post save from Cech before Messi leapt on the edge of the box to head a Sanchez cross into the stretching keeper’s arms.

A patchy period followed with a few niggling fouls and no great creation. Chelsea was quashing much of the Catalonians’ attacking prospects.

The English club's resistance was nearly broken on 42 minutes, however, when Barca broke with Messi. The Argentine slid in Fabregas to his left, but his colleague’s attempt to lift it gently over Cech was too underpowered and Ashley Cole arrived to clear off the line.

Halftime parity seemed inevitable but, in added time, Chelsea suddenly broke. Ramires controlled well on the left flank and slipped a perfectly weighted pass across the box, where Drogba was waiting to finish just past the grasping Victor Valdes. A committed defensive performance, punctuated by the Ivorian's breakaway goal just before halftime, secured the hosts a slim advantage ahead of the Camp Nou return leg.

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