Lionel Messi finally found the back of the net against Chelsea in this his ninth appearance against them to hand Barcelona a slender but potentially crucial advantage at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea had taken a deserved lead through Willian, who had hit both posts in the opening half before dispatching a third shot from outside the box into the net.
But their good work was undone when they gave the ball away in an advanced position and Messi was left with an easy finish.
Barcelona star Lionel Messi celebrates with his long-time team-mate Andres Iniesta after they combined to score the goal
The Argentine international was left with a simple finish after the Chelsea defence gave the ball away in a dangerous area
Chelsea players look on with dejected looks on their faces after conceding their one-goal advantage on Tuesday evening
Chelsea’s Brazilian star Willian sides on his knees in celebration after giving the Premier League side a 1-0 lead over Barcelona
Chelsea’s No 22 is joined by his Chelsea team-mates bu the corner flag after scoring the opening goal of the two-legged tie
Willian evaded the challenge of Sergio Busquets before dispatching the ball into the bottom corner of Barcelona’s net
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
CHELSEA XI: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Moses, Fabregas (Drinkwater 83), Kante, Alonso, Willian, Hazard, Pedro (Morata 83).
Subs not used: Caballero, Giroud, Zappacosta, Cahill, Hudson-Odoi.
Goals: Willian 62.
Bookings: Rudiger, Morata
Manager: Antonio Conte.
BARCELONA XI: ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Paulinho (Aleix Vidal 63), Messi, Luis Suarez, Iniesta.
Subs not used: Cillessen, Denis Suarez, Dembele, Digne, Andre Gomes, Vermaelen.
Goals: Messi 75
Bookings: Rakitic, Suarez, Busquets
Manager: Ernesto Valverde.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).
MESSI BREAKS HIS DUCK
Lionel Messi scored his first-ever goal for Barcelona against Chelsea in his nine appearance, netting with his 30th shot against them.
Willian strikes from outside the box to give Chelsea a one-goal lead. From more Match Zone statistics, click HERE
If there has been a theme this week it is that possession, in itself, can be a false indicator, and Chelsea duly played Wigan to Barcelona’s Manchester City for much of the first-half. With one difference. Chelsea actually had the most shots at goal, and the best two chances of the opening 45 minutes, Willian hitting both posts.
Yes, for long periods they may have been observers in their own stadium, as Barcelona hogged the ball – reaching 81 per cent possession at one stage – yes they may have misplaced passes and then been forced to watch Barcelona control the play for minutes on end, and yes, N’Golo Kante may have mustered two touches and one tackle in the opening 29 minutes, but Chelsea could have led at the midway point, and by more than one.
It is immensely energy sapping trying to contain Barcelona’s brilliance, but Chelsea did so for the first period of the game. Luis Suarez wasn’t in it, Lionel Messi as mesmerising as ever yet his influence limited. Of course, his intelligence is always apparent, his wit, his will, his genius ability to conjure a chance from nowhere.
Sadly for Barcelona, his best moment, a chip targeted a perfectly as a Jordan Spieth short wedge, fell to Paulinho who appeared to have his Tottenham head on. Using it, he steered the ball well wide of the target.
Chelsea then had the best of it early on, the lengthy exercises of keep ball aside. Antonio Conte gambled by playing Eden Hazard through the middle upfront, a ploy that has not always worked against considerably inferior opposition in the Premier League this season.
On this occasion, however, it paid dividends. Ably supported by the outstanding Willian, Hazard matched Messi in the battle of the tens many had predicted would decide this game. He found space, he teased Barcelona’s defensive midfield and, on occasions, terrified their full-backs.
Chelsea’s Brazilian international Willian comes agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock with a shot from 25 yards out
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen watches as a shot from Chelsea attacker Willian crashes against the goalpost
Ter Stegen dives to his right in an attempt to save a shot from Willian, but is spared when it bounces off his goalpost
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte (right) gesticulates wildly on the touchline after seeing Willian hit the post for a second time
Willian, meanwhile, tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal with shots from range that were twice defied by the posts. It was a far better display than many expected – most of the home fans fearing the worst given just four wins in the last 12 matches.
Chelsea put their mark on the game early, just five minutes gone when Hazard cut inside and tried his luck with a shot that travelled over the bar. Within four minutes, they had won a corner and Willian picked out Antonio Rudiger, who perhaps should have done better, steering his header wide.
For all the talk of Barcelona’s beautiful game, like Brazil, they know how to assassinate, too, and Jordi Alba was lucky to avoid a yellow card for a body check on Willian that thwarted a fine run with cold intent. When Ivan Rakitic did something similar after 30 minutes, tripping him crudely on the run, Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir had no option but to produce a card. From the resulting free-kick Marcos Alonso forced a good save from ter Stegen, diving to his left.
There followed a short minute period that could have seen Chelsea go two clear – Willian at the heart of it on both occasions. In the 33rd minute, Hazard fed Willian who cut inside, drifting past Sergio Busquets before unleashing a shot of such venom, ter Stegen could only look on helplessly. It his left post and rebounded out, fortunately to Barcelona’s advantage, and the danger passed.
Seven minutes later, pretty much the same again. Willian once more, on the opposite side of the penalty, striking ter Stegen’s right post with a shot from outside the area. At least the Barcelona goalkeeper had time to dive this time.
Nor did the pressure abate as, three minutes before half-time, Chelsea floated a free-kick in, only half cleared by Barcelona’s back line. The ball fell to Hazard on the volley on the edge of the area, his shot considerably closer to the target as was first imagined as it disappeared over the bar.
More to follow…
Barcelona and Chelsea line up in front of a packed Stamford Bridge as the Champions League anthem plays before kick-off
Chelsea flags are waved by the home supporters as they await kick-off in the Champions League round of 16 first leg match
Barcelona striker Luis Suarez and his high-profile team-mate Lionel Messi await kick-off in their team tracksuits on Tuesday
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen dives to stop a shot from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, but the ball goes just over
Argentina international Messi shows his agility as he takes on Chelsea star N’Golo Kante (obscured) and Antonio Rudiger
Chelsea’s Brazilian international Willian (left) battles for the ball with Barcelona’s veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta (right)
Germany international Rudiger out-jumps Barcelona’s Gerard Pique and directs his header on goal, but his shot goes wide
Spain international team-mates Cesar Azpilicueta (left) and Cesc Fabregas (right) protest their innocence as Messi is tripped
Messi chips a cross into the Chelsea box and finds Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, who is unmarked at the far post
Paulinho meets Messi’s cross with his head but is unable to threaten Thibaut Courtois’ goal as it goes wide of the right post
Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso attempts to break the deadlock with a curling free-kick, but fails to beat Ter Stegen
Respective No 10s Hazard and Messi stand side by side as the first half plays out at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening
Chelsea star Hazard attempts to break the deadlock with an ambitious volley but sees his shot fly over the crossbar
Barcelona fans remain vociferous in the away end at Stamford Bridge as their team continue to toil on Tuesday evening
Messi and Fabregas, who have maintained a close friendship since childhood, compete in the air for their respective teams
Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti makes it clear to the referee that he had nothing to do with Hazard falling over at his feet
Ter Stegen looks behind him to see the ball nestle in the back of the net after Willian finally scores the goal he deserved
Chelsea’s Italian manager Antonio Conte celebrates with trademark enthusiasm after seeing his side take a one-goal lead
Barcelona players look dejected as they wait for the game to restart following Willian’s opening goal in the second half
Barcelona star Messi raises his arms to the travelling fans after scoring the goal to bring his side back on level terms