Ronaldinho rifles Barca into last eight
A timely individual strike from the world's best player Ronaldinho earned Barcelona a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League after a tense second leg 1-1 draw against Chelsea at the Nou Camp on Tuesday. The Brazilian put the Spanish champions ahead 3-1 on aggregate after slicing through the Blues defence with 12 minutes to go. And although Frank Lampard's late penalty earned Jose Mourinho's side an equaliser on the night, it was never going to be enough to prevent the Catalans eliminating their conquerors of last year.
"We lost against them last season so it's a nice feeling to go through against a great side," said Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard. "When a team defends well it's often because of the forwards and when they attack well it's thanks to the defenders."
Chelsea boss Mourinho lamented some missed opportunities.
"We had some good chances, Cole, Robben, and a great chance for Crespo but it wasn't to be," said the Portuguese. "Statistics prove it's very difficult (in the knockout stage) to come back from a home defeat."
Mourinho fielded an attacking line up with Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Arjen Robben all starting. It was a cagey opening with neither side prepared to give much space. Chelsea were quick to throw men forward but those tactics also revealed a vulnerability on the break against perhaps the speediest attack in the game.
On 10 minutes a fine move involving Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o ended with Motta's drive forcing Petr Cech into a low save to his left. Four minutes later and this time it was Messi who struck from the same distance but with same result.
There was a noticeable tension in the game. The English champions' passing was sloppy while Barcelona, dominating possession, were wayward with their final ball after intricate approach play. Following on the late fireworks in the first leg, the second game was proving more cat and mouse.
Messi and a Ronaldinho, screaming for the ball on the touchline, appeared to be above it all. On 17 minutes, they combined delightfully down the left until the Argentine's cross-shot was well blocked by Ricardo Carvalho.
A minute later the Chelsea danger became more apparent. Robben's free kick found Didier Drogba at the back post but his header fell kindly into the hands of Victor Valdes.
On 24 minutes the tie took another twist. A distraught Messi, Barcelona's hero of Stamford Bridge, limped off the field and into the arms of coach Frank Rijkaard after pulling up with an injury.
Shackled by Paulo Ferreira and starved of service, Ronaldinho's flicks and tricks were not amounting to too much and the Blues began to find greater joy out wide. Frank Lampard's cross on 33 reached Duff at the back post but the Irishman sliced his shot well wide.
Four minutes later, the impressive Claude Makelele and Cole did well to move the ball out left to Robben. The Dutchman cut inside onto his favoured left foot and struck powerfully, forcing Valdes into a decent save. Two minutes before half-time and Chelsea almost grabbed the opening goal of the night. John Terry won another high ball in the Barcelona area and Cole's toe poke in front of Carles Puyol looped over Valdes but just over the bar.
Samuel Eto'o had been having a quiet evening but on 58 minutes the Cameroonian sprang away from his markers to force Cech into an uncomfortable save with a rasping drive.
However it was the English league leaders, needing to score two goals, who were gaining the initiative. Just after the hour mark, Cole centred to the near post where Crespo, on for Drogba, nipped in front of Valdes only to steer his effort wide.
The miss was to prove costly. The Nou Camp crowd had been forced to watch their side back-track and hack the ball clear for much of the second period but with 12 minutes remaining they saw something entirely more familiar. Picking the ball up centrally positioned 30 yards from goal, Ronaldinho dodged forward, side-stepping one challenge after another before firing inside Cech's near post to finally bring the crowd to its feet (1-0, 78).
And Eto'o almost doubled the lead minutes later. The African player of the year slipped delightfully past his man before side-footing inches past the far post.
With the game nearly up, Terry was brought down by Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Lampard stepped up to score from the spot and even the scores on the night (1-1, 93). It was so late though that there was no time for the restart and Barcelona were through to the quarter-finals.
"They were very dangerous," conceded Rijkaard. "We didn't have many scoring opportunities but we did well at the crucial moments."
Mourinho emphasised the difference between the sides: "We are complete opposites. They have great individual players and, at this level, details make the difference. Last season we missed an open goal against Liverpool (semi-final second leg) but that's football. Good luck to them. Now we'll be the ones watching the quarter-finals on TV."