Drogba gives Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona win
A craftsman's goal from in-form striker Didier Drogba earned Chelsea a foothold in the knockout stage of the Champions league.Updated: Oct 19, 2006 14:16 IST
A craftsman's goal from in-form Chelsea striker Didier Drogba earned Chelsea a 1-0 win over holders Barcelona on Wednesday and a foothold in the knockout stage of the Champions league.
It was the third win out of three for the English champions and put them in command of Group A, on nine points, five ahead of Barcelona and Werder Bremen, 2-0 winners over Levski Sofia.
The second half was less than two minutes old when Drogba, surrounded by defenders, controlled a cross from full back Ashley Cole, swivelled to escape Barca captain Carles Puyol and smashed the ball home.
It was the third season in a row that the two sides had met in the Champions League, Chelsea triumphing two seasons ago and Barcelona gaining revenge last March on their way to the title.
Wednesday's encounter, fast, entertaining and skilful though it was, lacked the raw passion of the previous knockout meetings that had been full of drama and controversy.
The London side created the best chance of the first half when, after a pinpoint pass from Michael Essien, Drogba Chelsea's top scorer this season, launched towards goal and beat advancing goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
But defender Rafael Marquez was able to squeeze the ball out for a corner from under the feet of Andriy Shevchenko.
After a bright start for the home side, Barcelona, who had not lost a Champions League game since they went down 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in the first knockout round two seasons ago, showed their class, bossing the midfield with tight passing movements.
The English champions, who have had a turbulent week after their top two goalkeepers suffered head injuries in a Premier League match at Reading on Saturday, were often forced to play a counter-attacking game on their own ground.
Chelsea's third-choice keeper Hilario pulled off his first save in the 24th minute, coming off his line to block a shot from Lionel Messi with the Argentine advancing dangerously down the right.
Messi caused the 30-year-old Portuguese debutant, standing in for Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, more problems minutes later after a fine passing move when Ronaldinho sent Xabi Hernandez free but Hilario dived and got his fingers to the ball after it spun off his captain Jon Terry.
He was also equal to a header from Marquez after a Ronaldinho corner late in the half and a free kick by the Brazilian six minutes into the second period.
Perhaps boosted by the assurance of Hilario, Chelsea began the second half with more verve and aggression and were further lifted by Drogba's excellent goal.
They should have had a second in the 58th minute after a fast break and interchange between Frank Lampard and Drogba but Andriy Shevchenko's shot went wide.
Drogba, Essien and Shevchenko all had further chances as Chelsea piled forward into the spaces left as Barcelona pushed for the equaliser.
The defending champions were now playing catch up and though they earned several free kicks close to Chelsea's area and a handful of corners, world player of the year Ronaldinho, who has been criticised in the Catalan media for a lack of conviction this season, failed to make them tell.
Deco had a shot saved in 88th minute by Hilario which prompted a concerted flag-waving celebration from a packed stadium. The keeper earned a standing ovation as he left the field.
First Published: Oct 19, 2006 14:16 IST