There has not been a great deal for Antonio Conte to be positive about of late, but despite Barcelona comfortably beating Chelsea at the Nou Camp, the Italian cannot be too displeased with his side’s performance, writes Pete Hall.
Poor goalkeeping, missed chances and Lionel Messi – that just about sums up Chelsea’s evening in the Nou Camp as they bowed out of the Champions League, losing 4-1 on aggregate.
Thibaut Courtois should have done better with both Messi goals as the Barca superstar took his Champions League career tally to 100, but in this form, Messi is simply unplayable. There are no superlatives left to describe his feats.
Yet, even as Barcelona edged further and further ahead in the tie, Chelsea remained on top for large swathes of the game, just as they were in the first leg.
Chelsea fans enjoying some March sunshine on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas plazas were surprisingly confident pre-match, despite their side’s poor domestic form, and that overtly cocksure attitude came off the back of what they had seen for long periods at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago. The prospect of taking the game to Barcelona again excited those in blue in Catalonia.
That optimism was soon dashed as Messi scored from the tightest of angles inside two minutes – but still Chelsea attacked en masse.
One swift counter from Messi, sashaying past three defenders before squaring for Ousmane Dembele 20 minutes in and it was 2-0 – Barca scoring with each of their first two shots of the match, again against the run of play.
2-0 down, on the back of five defeats in their last 10 in all competitions, all while playing against the might of a Messi-inspired Barca, you’d have forgiven Chelsea for letting their heads drop, but they kept coming and coming.