At Stamford Brigde, FC Barcelona suffered their first defeat in the UEFA Champions League 2011-12, in arguably what was the most wasteful performance of the season so far. Barcelona played a very good game, dominated the match and created more than enough chances to win this first leg, but their poor finishing let them down, although everything is still left to play for at Camp Nou. A good performance, despite the negative result.
Here are today’s ratings:
Victor Valdés – 7
Could have perhaps done a bit more in Drogba’s goal, although it was really hard to stop such a shot. He had nothing to do otherwise, other than some easy saves and participating in some of the team’s endless passing sequences.
Adriano Correia – 7
Was generally solid defensively, although the play that led to Chelsea’s goal came from his side, and provided a more-than-decent threat going forward, coming very close to scoring early in the second half with a great shot after an excellent dribbling run.
Carles Puyol – 9
Arguably the Man of the Match today. Wasn’t beaten a single time, showing great fighting spirit (as always) and experience at this level, and even came close to equalizing from a header late in the game. Doesn’t look like he is 34 at all, he’s still the captain and leader of this team.
Javier Mascherano – 7
Often struggled a bit with Drogba up front due to his lack of height, but had a solid game overall alongside Puyol in the centre of defense. His distribution was far below Piqué’s usual level though, as should be expected.
Daniel Alves – 6.5
Had very little to do defensively and was consistently sending inaccurate crosses/shots on the offensive end. Clearly not one of his best performances, surely not on the attacking end.
Sergio Busquets – 8.5
Had an excellent performance as usual, only marred by an incredible last minute miss that could have given Barcelona the equalizer. Before that, he was a giant in midfield, reading the game perfectly and recovering ball after ball, as well as spraying quick, accurate passes all over the pitch.
Xavi Hernandez – 7
As per usual, completed more passes than anyone else on the pitch (126) and pulled the strings in the middle of the park, but was too conservative with his passing against an extremely defensive Chelsea side. A little more boldness in his passing could have been very useful instead of always choosing the safest option.
Andrés Iniesta – 7.5
Was mostly appearing on the left and not on his best position in the centre, which reduced his overall influence. He still had brilliant moments, like his pass to Alexis (who hit the bar) and when he humiliated Cahill and should have really got a penalty, and was overall one of the best players on the pitch.
Cesc Fabregas – 6
A couple of key passes that could have resulted in goals are the highlights of an overall poor performance. He was rarely involved and still often managed to slow down/end the team’s attacks. He also failed two absolute sitters in the first half, one of them in an absolute scandalous way. Definitely didn’t have a good match.
Alexis Sanchez – 5.5
Even more invisible than Fabregas for most of the match and equally guilty of missing great chances. Could never take advantage of his dribbling skills against Chelsea’s defense. Was replaced by Pedro in the middle of the second half.
Lionel Messi – 7.5
Although the Chelsea goal came from a mistake of his in possession, it was still a very good performance where he only didn’t rack up assists due to his teammates’ incompetence in front of goal tonight. He was often the only man up front who seemed to be trying to change the outcome.
Pedro Rodriguez – 7
Improved the team when he came on for Sanchez, as he was much more active than the Chilean, and came very close to scoring in the last minute when his shot hit the post.
Thiago Alcantara – 7
Only played briefly, but the improvement was noticeable. The quality and incisiveness of his passing in particular were very superior to Cesc’s today.
Isaac Cuenca – N/A
Came in for Xavi in the dying minutes.
Editor’s Note: These ratings have been written by Manuel Traquete. He is a lifelong FC Barcelona supporter and a freelance football writer who shares his thoughts @Manueltraquete
Photo credit: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images