FC Barcelona gave themselves a wonderful chance of securing a UEFA Champions League quarter-final berth as two late goals gave them a revenge victory over a Chelsea FC team forced to play with ten men for more than 50 minutes.
It was a tale of two own goals at Stamford Bridge before Samuel Eto'o headed the winner with ten minutes remaining. In a thrilling repeat of last year's dramatic tie between the sides, Chelsea made light of the dismissal of Asier Del Horno and forged ahead as Thiago Motta inadvertently found the net. That was then cancelled out by a John Terry own goal after which the Spanish champions had numerous opportunities to score. Lionel Messi hit the bar and Terry twice cleared off the line before Eto'o had the last word.
The Premiership team brought Del Horno back in place of William Gallas, who had a hamstring problem. With Michael Essien suspended, the return of Claude Makelele, after he had missed the previous three domestic fixtures through injury, was timely. In attack Hernán Crespo was preferred to Didier Drogba. Barcelona included Giovanni van Bronckhorst at left-back ahead of Sylvinho and gave a start to exciting teenager Messi for only the third time in this season's competition.
The pitch had been heavily watered and puddles were in evidence at the start. The Chelsea fans were in full voice and two early free-kicks filled them with expectation. However, it was Barcelona who first raided with real threat, a swift counter featuring Deco and Eto'o leading to Messi testing Petr Čech. The visitors were having more problems with the surface than Chelsea. It was clear they were expecting the ball to run faster though they were highly combative and Deco was a prominent figure in the midfield exchanges.
Frank Lampard, equally influential, fired in a shot which Victor Valdés watched fly over. Then Eidur Gudjohnsen skilfully evaded Carles Puyol's challenge and Barcelona were fortunate that Van Bronckhorst was on hand to clear the cross. Messi was causing problems for Del Horno down the right and after one dazzling exchange with Deco, the alarm bells sounded for the hosts. However, neither Eto'o nor Ronaldinho could get a shot away.
Del Horno dismissed
Crespo needed treatment following a Puyol foul for which the Barcelona captain was booked, although Chelsea were finding it hard to get their centre-forward involved and Barcelona's confidence was growing with Ronaldinho drawing a superb save from Čech. That self-esteem grew some more when Chelsea were reduced to ten men. Messi persevered in pursuit of the ball, did wonderfully well to escape Arjen Robben's tackle and was then caught as Del Horno came in. Both players were hurt and when the full-back eventually got to his feet he was shown the red card.
Mourinho's response was to withdraw Joe Cole and introduce Geremi. At the break Crespo made way for Drogba and the ten men gave a spirited answer to adversity, Robben flashing a low drive beyond the far post while Paulo Ferreira worried Valdés with a long shot. Motta tried something similar as the Chelsea defence backed off and his effort did not clear the bar by much.
When the midfielder was next involved, in the 59th minute, it had drastic consequences for his team as he flicked in Lampard's free-kick after colliding with his goalkeeper. Substitute Henrik Larsson and Chelsea's Drogba both went close before Terry got a crucial touch to Ronaldinho's free-kick to send the ball high beyond Čech. The Chelsea custodian could do little about the deciding goal either, as Eto'o climbed above Ferreira to head in Rafael Márquez's cross at the far post and seal a huge win for the Spanish champions.
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