For the second season running FC Barcelona were frustrated by English opposition in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals as a determined defensive effort from Chelsea FC earned a goalless draw in Catalonia.
Barça had failed to win their previous four home games against Premier League visitors and, one year on from their stalemate against Manchester United FC, were denied again. Petr Čech made a fine block from Samuel Eto'o's goalbound second-half effort but the home side should have snatched a crucial advantage in added time, substitutes Bojan Krkić and Aleksandr Hleb both spurning golden opportunities. Víctor Valdés had earlier made a fine double save from Didier Drogba and to add to Barcelona's disappointment at failing to score at home for the first time this season, they lost central defender Rafael Márquez to a knee injury only for his replacement Carles Puyol to collect a yellow card which rules him out of next week's return. No one at Barcelona will need reminding their team were eliminated at United 12 months ago following an identical first-leg result.
Guus Hiddink's decision to opt for John Mikel Obi and Michael Ballack as defensive midfielders in front of Chelsea's back four yielded early dividends. The area in which Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernádez and Lionel Messi usually weave such dangerous passing patterns was hugely congested, meaning the home side lacked rhythm. But when Čech dropped a simple cross and Messi won his first sprint against stand-in left back José Bosingwa, the Portuguese conceding a free kick in the process, normal service at the Camp Nou began to be resumed.
A series of well-worked interpassing moves allowed Xavi, Eto'o and Thierry Henry to fire in shots as the tempo steadily increased, with Chelsea prevented from playing as high up the pitch as Hiddink had intended. As the visitors, who had drawn their last two matches here, attempted to stem the tide Ballack and Alex both collected yellow cards, although they were joined by Yaya Touré as the home side showed the first signs of frustration. When Henry struck a powerful and accurate shot that Čech had to push round his post, a Barça breakthrough looked imminent. Instead the best chance of the opening period fell to Chelsea as Márquez failed to deal with a long ball, allowing Drogba to race clear, but the Ivorian striker was denied by two brave blocks from Valdés.
The Barcelona goal came under more pressure at the start of the second period, Daniel Alves conceding a free-kick which Drogba dropped on to Ballack's head, but the chance zipped over. The physical intensity of the game was still remarkably high and after Henry shook off a shuddering collision with Alex, Márquez's grim night continued when he collapsed on the turf without being challenged and was carried off holding his knee. Barça responded positively to the setback, Alves powering into Chelsea's penalty area and drawing another good stop from Čech.
As Messi and Alves peppered the Chelsea goal with stinging shots Čech added brilliance to his previous efficiency. Eto'o cleverly turned and outpaced Alex before turning the defender again and sliding in a precise shot which the goakeeper blocked with his leg. The real drama was still to come, however, Bojan heading over Alves' right-wing cross from point-blank range before Čech crowned his excellent evening with another fine block from Hleb as Barcelona drew a blank at the Camp Nou for the first time since last season's semi-finals.