"We just played a perfect game that day." Luís Figo
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Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona have enjoyed a series of epic duels over the years but the first, in 2000, was perhaps their finest battle.
Neither as suave nor sophisticated as manager Gianluca Vialli, Chelsea had nevertheless cultivated a style under the Italian that was serving them well. Winners of a section containing AC Milan, the Blues sailed through the second group stage and though their European bloodline was shorter than their illustrious quarter-final opponents, it mattered not initially. They won the first leg 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, seemingly in touching distance of the last four. They should have known better.
After all, a Barcelona team containing heavyweights like Rivaldo, Josep Guardiola, Patrick Kluivert and Luís Figo could never be taken lightly. Indeed, from the moment Ballon d'Or holder Rivaldo beat Chelsea goalkeeper Ed de Goey with a deflected free-kick on 24 minutes, the irrepressible hosts did not so much chip at Chelsea's new-found ascendancy as apply a wrecking ball to it.
By half-time they held the away-goals advantage. Kluivert's low shot hit a post having beaten De Goey, and Figo was on hand to collect the rebound, keep his cool and finish with aplomb. Yet as so often with such lofty dominance comes the pitfalls of complacency. Goalkeeper Ruud Hesp duly stepped into it on the hour, his sloppy clearance allowing Tore André Flo his third goal of the tie. The Blues had the edge once more.
So it remained until the closing seven minutes when Barcelona firstly drew level through Dani's header and, moments later, spurned a glorious chance to wrap up an aggregate victory when Rivaldo put wide from the penalty spot. The Brazilian maestro had a second bite at the cherry nine minutes into extra time, though, and this time made no mistake after Celestine Babayaro had been sent off for felling Figo.
Brave enough to go the same way, Rivaldo's spot kick this time went inside, rather than outside, De Goey's right-hand post. Kluivert's header added further gloss to the scoreline but, in truth, Chelsea's bubble had already burst after a night of extraordinary twists and turns. It would not be the last for these two sides.