Chelsea saw mission accomplished after they stood firm against a barrage from Barcelona at the Camp Nou to draw 0-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday, leaving the hosts goalless for the first time at home this season in the competition.
As expected Barca took the game to Chelsea and enjoyed the vast majority of the possession but they were unable to find a way through to goal.
Petr Cech made a couple of important blocks from Samuel Eto\’o and substitute Alexandr Hleb but too often they were restricted to strikes from distance.
In the pre-match build-up Xavi Hernandez predicted a battle between Barca\’s passing game and Chelsea\’s more physical approach and this proved to be the case after a predictable tense opening in which both teams felt each other out.
To deal with the aerial challenge Gerard Pique was preferred at the heart of the Barca defence alongside Rafa Marquez with club captain Carles Puyol surprisingly left on the bench.
For Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink decided to pack the midfield playing John Mikel Obi and dropping striker Nicolas Anelka despite claiming his team would go out and attack.
Barca began probing the visitors defence and their quick movement left the Chelsea backline at full stretch.
An interchange between Eto\’o and Xavi saw the Cameroon international shoot wide from the edge of the area while Xavi himself and Lionel Messi also tested the Chelsea goal.
Chelsea looked to contain Barca with strong challenges but at times they went over the top and both Alex and Michael Ballack were booked mid-way through the first-half.
The game did threaten to boil over with an ugly exchange between Dani Alves and Florent Malouda, and Barca\’s own enforcer Toure Yaya was booked for complaining after another late tackle from Chelsea.
Before the interval in a rare foray forward Drogba could have given Chelsea the lead when an error from Marquez put him through on goal but he fired straight at the keeper. Barca too went close with Thierry Henry forcing a save from Cech at his near post.
Chelsea continued to defend deeply and while they battled hard it is an ominous task to last out a full 90 minutes against the quality of the Barca attack but that is just what they did.
Marquez was carried off for Barcelona after appearing to injure his knee but it mattered little as most of the game was in the other half.
While Ballack did see a header go wide, Alves and Messi both had shots from the edge of the area but too rarely made their domination count. Eto\’o should though have done better after outpacing Alex but with just the keeper to beat he took too long with his shot and was crowded out.
In the final stages Barca desperate for a lead to take to Stamford Bridge brought on Bojan Krkic and Hleb but they too could not conjure a goal although the ex-Arsenal player Hleb saw a shot saved well by Cech in injury time.