Lionel Messi netted a brace at the Camp Nou to send Chelsea out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage.
Messi opened the scoring from an acute angle before Ousmane Dembele scored with a fiercely struck shot soon after to all but eliminate Chelsea’s chances. The five-time World Player of the Year scored his second with his stronger left foot to secure the tie after half-time.
Fans were still finishing off their pre-match drinks when Messi scored with two minutes gone. A slightly fortuitous one-two with Luis Suarez saw the Argentinian fire the ball between Thibaut Courtois’ legs from near the right byline. Chelsea’s resistance lasted just over 120 seconds.
Chelsea were in the ascendancy after the goal. Barcelona were happy to sit a little deeper than usual, but the visitors’ pressing was just as effective as it was in the first leg. Eden Hazard had a couple of opportunities to carry the ball in the final third during the first 10 minutes. The Belgian looked somewhere near his best.
For all the territory, Chelsea created little. Then, in the 20th minute, Cesc Fabregas was robbed by Messi in midfield. Messi dribbled towards Chelsea’s box and delivered a perfectly paced feed to Ousmane Dembele who rifled past Courtois from the right of the goal.
The remainder of the second half carried on in a similar vein. Barcelona were not having a great deal of the ball, yet Chelsea could not make a great deal other than a side-foot shot from Marcos Alonso that was easily saved.
Chelsea’s other meaningful effort came when Alonso’s free-kick pinged off the right post in injury time. The half-time whistle saw more complaints from the Blues towards the referee after a first 45 minutes that had threatened to explode amidst play-acting and petty fouling.
Courtois was at it again early in the second half. For reasons best kept to himself, the Belgian passed the ball straight to Suarez. Luckily, it was a poor shot from the Uruguayan, which Courtois kept out. Chelsea followed that up with a good chance of their own, but Nelson Semedo made a brilliant last-ditch tackle.
Alonso was then brought down by Gerard Pique when he was about 10 yards out and through on goal. The referee waved away Chelsea appeals and booked Giroud for his protests.
The away side continued to look more likely to score until the 63rd minute. Again it was Courtois at fault as he let a Messi shot through his legs – yes, again – from the left side of the area. The hosts soon started to play simple keep-ball as they worked to run the clock down.
Errors in both legs cost Chelsea their hope of Champions League progression. Antonio Conte’s side performed well, but cannot afford to continue making those individual mistakes if they are to have any chance of qualifying for Europe’s premier competition next season.
Chelsea’s attention now turns to their sole hope of silverware, the FA Cup, this weekend as they head to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester.