Cech heroics frustrate Barca

Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Chelsea's defensive discipline earned them a precious goalless draw against Barcelona to make them slight favourites to reach their second successive Champions League final.

Coach Guus Hiddink's pre-match prediction that the first leg of this semi-final tie would be saturated in goals proved incorrect as Chelsea put in a highly competent defensive shift.

Hiddink's tactic of giving holding roles to both John Obi Mikel and Michael Ballack worked superbly and Lionel Messi was marked out of the contest by Jose Bosingwa.

Barca's strike force of Samuel Eto'o, Messi and Thierry Henry have scored 90 goals between them in all competitions so far this season. But Henry proved to be Barca's real danger man when he twice forced Petr Cech into important saves in the opening half.

However, to a man, Chelsea were defiant and disciplined with full-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Bosingwa faultless while John Terry and Alex were solid as a rock.

Hiddink will be more than pleased with the night's work and Chelsea should have enough in their artillery to go on and finish the job in the return match next week.

The atmosphere in the stadium was electric with the Nou Camp faithful in full voice.

The hosts almost grabbed an early lead when a free-kick from the left reached Samuel Eto'o at the far post after Cech misread the flight of the ball. However, the Cameroon striker's far-post header flashed across the face of the goal with Rafael Marquez unable to connect.

Cech was in trouble again in the 11th minute when he surprisingly opted to punch clear a cross by Eric Abidal.

Luckily for the Czech, none of the Barcelona forwards were quick enough to capitalise on his error.

But Barcelona soon gained control of the midfield and when Messi slipped Daniel Alves clear, the full-back's dangerous low cross was cleared decisively by Alex.

Moments later, Eto'o tried his luck from 20 yards but his low drive was more than a little wayward and Cech was untroubled by his effort.

Barcelona pegged Chelsea back with a series of corners as the half-hour approached.

Chelsea's defence repelled the danger every time but the Blues were forced to camp in their own half as Barcelona looked for an opening.

In the 28th minute Xavi almost broke the deadlock with a long-range drive that flashed past Cech's right-hand upright.

Moments later Ballack was booked for a foul on Henry but the Barca player certainly made the most of it as he rolled on the ground as though he had been shot.

In the 31st minute though Henry was fit enough to unleash an angled drive that Cech gathered at the near post.

Cech pulled out another outstanding save to deny Henry again in the 34th minute as Barcelona continued to test Chelsea's defensive resolve at every opportunity.

Florent Malouda appeared to catch Alves in an off-the-ball incident and moments later the pair were involved in another spat which German referee Wolfgang Stark again chose to ignore.

But Chelsea should have been ahead when a dreadful back pass by Marquez put Didier Drogba clear in the 38th minute but the Ivorian's shot was twice saved superbly by Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Barcelona suffered a major blow in the 50th minute when Marquez went down clutching the back of his knee and was carried off with possible ligament damage. He was immediately replaced by Carles Puyol.

But the Catalans won a corner in the 58th minute from which Messi volleyed high over the crossbar from 20 yards.

But Chelsea's defending had been admirable from the kick-off and Hiddink's side showed no sign of capitulating.

Whenever the home side did break through they found Cech in their way. In the 61st minute he proved his worth yet again when he blocked a ferocious angled drive from Alves.

In the 67th minute the former Sevilla star sent a free-kick just over the crossbar and Cech denied Eto'o with a fabulous save when the Barca striker got free of Alex for the first time in the game in the 69th minute.

Frank Lampard was replaced by Juliano Belletti in the 71st minute as Chelsea looked to protect the stalemate.

Puyol was booked for a foul on Michael Essien in the 75th minute and the card rules him out of the return leg at Stamford Bridge.

But Barcelona substitute Bojan Krkic could have won the first leg for his side but he somehow headed a cross from Alves over the bar from point-blank range, and there was still time for fellow sub Alexander Hleb to be denied by another great save from Cech in stoppage time.

It was their last chance and it could have costly repercussions for Pep Guardiola and his side at Stamford Bridge next week.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence