It was a match that played out as it surely had done in the dreams of Roberto Di Matteo leading up to Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first-leg, and unraveled in a similar vein to the way it must have occured in Pep Guardiola's nightmares.
Chelsea rolled back the years for perhaps one last relentlessly organized and stubborn performance to keep Barcelona at bay. And when the home side's defense was overcome, fortune intervened to prevent a potentially vital away goal. While, at the other end of the pitch, Frank Lampard played a massive part in the goal that veteran bulldozer Didier Drogba finished off.
It will be a tie with very few goals where small details will decide which team makes it to the final, is what Pep Guardiola said on Tuesday. The day after the match he will be hoping that, while his prophecy played out in the first-leg, it does not hold true over the duration of the tie.
The details were that Chelsea, pinned back and chasing the ball for most of the match, took advantage of their one true opening, while Barcelona were left ruing a host of near-misses.
Alexis Sanchez and Pedro struck the woodwork at opposite ends of the 90 minutes, Ashley Cole cleared virtually off the line, Petr Cech was a vital last line of defense more than once, while Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets were profligate when golden opportunities presented themselves.
It was almost perfect, said Chelsea boss Di Matteo said afterward, according to UEFA.com. Against Barcelona you have to do a lot of defending and be clinical when you get your chances. They are going to have a lot of possession.
A lot of possession is exactly what Barcelona had, 72 percent to be precise. And, while Chelsea deserve credit for the incredible work-rate they put in, the fact remains that Barcelona created as many chances as Guaradiola could probably have hoped. It was just one of those nights.
We played well, created 24 chances and still lost--what can you do? Guardioa said after the game, according to UEFA.com. We need to create 24 more chances at home in the return and hope that some go in.
But at the same time Chelsea largely succeeded in keeping Barcelona narrow and blocking off the space in front of the back four with, for large periods, a line of five in front of the back four. In the second-leg Dani Alves is sure to be expected to offer greater width higher up the pitch.
It may also be that either Pedro or Isaac Cuenca, both substitutes on Wednesday, get the nod from the start in the Camp Nou, perhaps in place of Cesc Fabregas, who, despite his many qualities, often served to clog the center of the midfield. Yet, on another day, Fabregas' runs from deep could have seen him bag a brace at Stamford Bridge.
Guardiola faces a dilemma of whether to change a side that, although defeated, controlled the match.
One change Guardiola will surely make, though, is the reinclusion of Gerard Pique. The former Manchester Uniited center-back would add some much needed height to Barcelona's defense to help ward off Chelsea's aerial attacks.
The fact that Chelsea played close, if not at, their peak and Barcelona spurned several chances that nine times out of 10 would see them win the match means Barcelona must still be considered favorites to progress.It is a tag that is even more warranted when considering that Barcelona are no strangers to still having plenty of work to do in the second-leg at home in European ties and have been a much tougher proposition at the Camp Nou than away from home this season.
For Chelsea, Di Matteo's men will need to produce a similarly dogged performance and hope to snatch a vital away goal that would leave Barcelona needing to score three. Even for a team as talented going forward as Barcelona, that could prove an obstacle too far.