More than a Clasico: Barcelona's loss in London proves the Champions League isn't all about Spain's big two

The Catalans couldn't score at Chelsea and like rivals Real Madrid, who lost at Bayern on Tuesday, they must now overturn a first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League final

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor

The pattern of the game proved predictable. Barcelona had the ball; Chelsea guarded their goal. As the Catalans attacked, the Blues sat back. The visitors dominated, the locals defended. It was the match many had envisaged, but a result few had imagined.

Home or away, league or cup, rain or shine, Barca set out to win football matches. And they should have won this one against a Chelsea side defending deeply, with multiple men behind the ball and Didier Drogba as a lone target man and an often isolated individual in attack.

But the incredible Ivorian punished the Catalans with Chelsea's one clear chance of the game, a quick breakaway attack on the brink of half-time after Frank Lampard had dispossessed Lionel Messi - of all people - in midfield and freed Ramires on the left, the Brazilian in turn sweeping an intelligent ball across the area for Drogba to drill a low shot into the corner past a somewhat static Victor Valdes.

MATCH FACTS | Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona

 On Target
The Barca goalkeeper may have done better with Drogba's effort, while Javier Mascherano could have cut out the ball from Ramires, and Messi should never have lost possession in the first place. The Catalans pride themselves in regaining the ball within six seconds of losing it but this time, only nine had elapsed in the three-man move which saw Chelsea capitalise on a rare misdemeanour from the visitors.

On another day, it may have been merely a consolation, but for all their pretty passing and possession, there was plenty of profligacy from Barcelona at the other end. Chances were created, but subsequently spurned.

Alexis Sanchez was the worst offender of all, lobbing an early effort onto the crossbar with only Petr Cech to beat and then inexplicably poking wide of the target when he seemed certain to score at the far post.

Cesc Fabregas was wasteful, too, on his return to London. He screwed one shot horribly off target after Cech could only parry from Barca's 2009 Stamford Bridge hero Andres Iniesta, and in another failed to get enough on a chip which beat the Czech goalkeeper but allowed Ashley Cole time to dash back and clear off the line.

All of that came in the first half and the Catalans lost their way somewhat in the second, despite a similar pattern of play, although they almost stole a dramatic draw - reminiscent of Iniesta's intervention in 2009 - as substitute Pedro drilled a low shot against the upright in the dying seconds and Sergio Busquets blasted the rebound into the crowd.

Messi, meanwhile, had seemed subdued. Chelsea doubled up on the Argentine in order to restrict his influence, and the 24-year old has still not scored in seven sorties against the Blues. The Ballon d'Or winner saw several long-range efforts blocked, while a header in the first half was comfortably claimed by Cech, although he was heavily involved in the build-up to Pedro's late drive and also provided the pass for Cesc's chip in the opening period.

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Chelsea defended with discipline and unquestionably rode their luck but Barca showed they are not quite the irrepressible force they have looked in Europe this season, suffering their first defeat in the continental competition since losing in London in the knockout stages last term with a 2-1 reverse at Arsenal.

Barca will now host Chelsea at Camp Nou on Tuesday in the knowledge that a repeat of their last result at home to the Blues (a goalless stalemate in the Champions League semi-final first leg in 2009) will see them eliminated from the competition. Such a scenario remains unlikely, however, considering the Catalans' wonderful form at home, where they are likely to throw even more men forward - and create even more opportunities.

But Chelsea have given themselves a chance, just as Bayern Munich did the night before by beating Real Madrid 2-1 at the Allianz Arena. A dream date in Munich in May for the final is still on for both Barca and Madrid, who first fight it out in Saturday's Clasico at Camp Nou in La Liga. But Chelsea and Bayern proved the duo's dominance in Spain cannot be entirely extended to Europe at the moment. And even if the pair do - as expected - advance to the continent's showpiece fixture next month, the last two nights have shown that the very best can still be beaten. The Champions League is more than just a Clasico.

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