By Graham Hunter at Camp Nou
Trailing to a first-half Juliano Belletti own goal, Frank Rijkaard's FC Barcelona came from behind to defeat ten-man Chelsea FC thanks to a dream UEFA Champions League debut from Maxi López.
Didier Drogba's dismissal eleven minutes into the second half swung the game and after substitute López restored parity, Samuel Eto'o gave the home team the victory that puts his side in the driving seat ahead of the second leg in London.
Barça's attacking approach might have brought a goal three times in the first ten minutes. Eto'o had the two best opportunities, both fired off target, before Ronaldinho manufactured a lovely opening for himself by curving a shot around one defender but just past Petr Cech's left-hand post.
Then disaster, at least for Barcelona, struck with a vengeance. Rijkaard's team was caught pushing high up the field and when Frank Lampard controlled the ball and looked for options he had only one. Damien Duff, a surprise starter for Chelsea, made a rampaging run along the right flank and the English international sent a looping right-foot pass into his team-mate's path.
Duff controlled the ball on the run and soon produced an outstanding flicked pass into the middle where Joe Cole was waiting to convert the chance. Belletti stretched and tried to intercept but could only force the ball high into his own net to delight the travelling supporters.
The only downside for the visitors centred upon their fit-again striker Drogba. Cautioned for a foul on Rafael Márquez, the Ivorian was then presented with a chance to make the score 2-0 and, potentially, decide the tie. This time, nine minutes from the break, it was a cute pass from Claude Makelele which sent Drogba racing clear and in an onside position. But the clear shooting chance went begging when Drogba blasted wide - and his evening was soon to get worse.
The second half was only moments old when the home side accepted the profligacy and turned it to their advantage. Again the match turned on a moment when Belletti was in grave danger in front of his own goal. Chesting down a long cross, the Brazilian tried to give his goalkeeper, Victor Valdés, possession. The ball was loose, determined Drogba raised his boot but caught the keeper and referee Anders Frisk promptly produced a second yellow card.
The effect that had on the Barcelona side was electric. Renewed with confidence and intention the players were supplemented with the height and physical power of their newest signing López. The Argentinian had never before shot at goal for his new club, only having joined at Christmas. However, within four minutes of him coming on for Ludovic Giuly, López turned William Gallas before hammering in a right-foot finish on 67 minutes.
Six minutes later Barça were ahead when López dragged a speculative shot across goal and Eto'o was quickest to react eight metres out. The match had become a bombardment of the Chelsea goal and both Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry performed minor sporting miracles to throw themselves in front of various clear shooting chances as the English team clung on to a 2-1 defeat from what had looked like a winning position.