Chelsea manager Antonio Conte rued one costly mistake as Lionel Messi gave Barcelona the upper hand from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie by salvaging a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Messi struck for the first time in nine games against Chelsea 15 minutes from the end, as Andres Iniesta punished the English champions once more when he intercepted Andreas Christensen’s slack pass across his own box to tee up the five-time World Player of the Year.Willian’s fine strike just after the hour mark had put Chelsea in command after he had hit both posts in the first half.
Chelsea must now score when they travel to the Camp Nou on March 14 to have any chance of making the last eight.
“Against this opponent, this type of player like Messi, (Luis) Suarez, Iniesta, if you make a mistake you pay,” said Conte.
Chelsea constantly tried to surround Messi with three or four blue shirts to limit the Argentine’s threat, but he dug out a cross to the far post where an unmarked Paulinho headed Barca’s best chance of the first-half wide.
Barca then went on to dominate possession, but the visitors lacked penetration and were lucky to go in level at half-time.
Willian scored twice from outside the box against Hull City in the FA Cup on Friday, and was inches away from another long-range stunner when he curled onto the post from 25 yards with Marc-Andre ter Stegen beaten in the Barca goal.Barca had kept six clean sheets in their previous seven Champions League games, but once again had good luck rather than good defending to thank four minutes before the break when Willian hooked another effort from outside the box off the woodwork.
Barca appeared to have restored order early in the second period, but failed to learn their lesson of Willian’s danger from the edge of the box.
A short corner was worked into the Brazilian’s path and he arrowed a low shot past the rooted Ter Stegen.
However, Barca remain unbeaten in 31 La Liga and Champions League games under Ernesto Valverde thanks to a late rally.