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Defensive prowess

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Friday, April 20, 2012

LONDON - Didier Drogba scored the only goal as Chelsea stunned holders Barcelona to score a 1-0 upset victory in their Champions League semi-final first-leg match yesterday.

Drogba left Chelsea dreaming of advancing to their first final since 2008 in next week's return leg at Camp Nou after pouncing on the stroke of halftime as Barcelona suffered their first European reverse of the season.

Drogba's goal was Chelsea's only attempt on target in a match where Barcelona carved out chance after chance only to be denied by some desperate defending by their Premier League opponents. Chelsea had taken the lead in first-half injury-time after an opening 45 minutes in which they had been comprehensively outplayed by the visitors.

Frank Lampard released Ramires down the left flank with a superb cross-field pass and the Brazilian threaded his pass across the area to Drogba, who swept a low shot past scrambling Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Until then, Chelsea had been clinging on as Barcelona dominated for long periods with their customary slick passing game.

The Catalans might have taken the lead after only nine minutes when Andres Iniesta picked out Alexis Sanchez with a delightful chipped pass, only for the Chilean international's lob over Petr Cech to hit the bar.

Chelsea, who had opted for the muscular presence of Drogba in attack ahead of Fernando Torres, signalled their intentions early on, pumping a series of long balls forward for the Ivorian.

Cech had to be alert on 18 minutes after Lionel Messi darted into the box and cut back for Iniesta, whose fierce low shot was well saved by the Chelsea custodian before Cesc Fabregas scuffed his follow-up wide. Fabregas tested Cech soon afterwards, his angled shot beaten away on 26 minutes.

Cech was pressed into action two minutes later, saving after Messi met a Sanchez cross with a downward header. A goal seemed a certainty two minutes from the half-time when Messi won the ball in midfield and raced forwards menacingly. The Argentinian threaded his pass through to Fabregas, who dinked his shot over the advancing Cech. The former Arsenal star's effort just appeared to be spinning in but Ashley Cole was on hand to hook the ball clear.

That appeared to be the final twist of the half until Drogba's dramatic strike shot Chelsea into the lead two minutes into time added on.





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