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.

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss