Didier Drogba gave Chelsea a precious lead to take to the Nou Camp for the Champions League semi-final second leg as his goal beat holders Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.
The Catalans dominated possession as well as creating a succession of chances - but Drogba struck in first-half injury time to give interim manager Roberto di Matteo's side an advantage to protect in Barcelona next Tuesday.
Barcelona at home this season
Chelsea were forced to mount a resilient rearguard action in the face of Barcelona's famous passing "carousel", but Drogba converted their one clear chance to reward the outstanding defensive work of Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole and captain John Terry in keeping Lionel Messi and co at bay.
Barcelona produced evidence of the huge threat they will pose in front of their own supporters as they enjoyed 72% of the possession, but Chelsea will be elated at not only claiming the victory but also keeping a crucial clean sheet.
Alexis Sanchez hit the crossbar for Barcelona early on and Pedro hit the post in the dying seconds - while Cole cleared off the line from Cesc Fabregas. Goalkeeper Petr Cech also saved well from Messi and Carles Puyol as Pep Guardiola's team tried every avenue in an attempt to break Chelsea down.
In the end, Chelsea's organisation and discipline was rewarded but Di Matteo knows they will have to produce the same - and more besides - in the Nou Camp to confirm a meeting with either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the final in Munich next month.
Di Matteo clearly saw Drogba's power as a potential threat to a Barcelona defence stripped of Gerard Pique - but he barely caught sight of goal in a first 45 minutes in which the Catalans exerted their technical superiority.
"It will be a very difficult task for Chelsea in Spain but if Di Matteo's side can just pinch a goal, then Barcelona have got to score three."
Chelsea were riding their luck as early as the eighth minute when Andres Iniesta played in Sanchez. The Chilean's lob left Cech stranded but his effort bounced back to safety off the bar.
Fabregas was the guilty party when Chelsea had another escape soon after. Messi was the creator to set up Iniesta but when Cech could only push out his shot, the former Arsenal captain miscued his finish from eight yards.
Messi was the next to test Cech with a header from Sanchez's cross, the Chelsea keeper gathering the effort comfortably as Barcelona once more failed to produce the final touch to accompany their artistic approach work.
As half-time approached Fabregas had another chance to give Barcelona the lead. He collected an incisive Messi pass and this time beat Cech, who required Cole to scramble back and clear the ball off the line.
Chelsea, at this point, would have been happy to reach the interval on level terms - but instead they produced the wonderful bonus of a goal in first-half injury time.
Messi was caught in possession by Frank Lampard, who released Ramires, and the reliable Brazilian served up the perfect cross for Drogba to sweep a left-footed finish past Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Drogba's main contribution prior to his goal was to go through his full range of theatrics but this was an example of exactly why Di Matteo made him his choice.
Lionel Messi has scored 243 goals for Barcelona but has now failed to score against Chelsea in seven matches
As is their style, Barcelona continued as if almost failing to recognise they had fallen behind - but also in the same vein of wasting the openings they created as Adriano saw a shot pushed away by Cech and Sanchez was unable to apply the finish to Fabregas's scooped pass.
Chelsea were pushed right back into their own territory as Barcelona probed and passed for an opening. They were able, however, to survive without too many serious alarms until the closing moments.
Cech dived away to his right to save Puyol's header from Messi's free-kick then escaped again in the final seconds as substitute Pedro struck the base of the post, with Sergio Busquets lifting the rebound wildly over the bar.
And after clinching a place against Liverpool in the
FA Cup Final with victory against Tottenham on Sunday,
Chelsea can now contemplate the possibility of reaching their second Champions League Final in five years.
- 01 Cech
- 02 Ivanovic
- 03 Cole
- 24 Cahill
- 26 Terry
- 07 Ramires Booked (Bosingwa - 88' )
- 08 Lampard
- 12 Mikel
- 16 Meireles
- 10 Mata (Kalou - 74' )
- 11 Drogba Booked
- 22 Turnbull
- 17 Bosingwa
- 05 Essien
- 15 Malouda
- 09 Torres
- 21 Kalou
- 23 Sturridge
- 01 Valdes
- 02 Alves
- 05 Puyol
- 21 Adriano Correia
- 04 Fabregas (Thiago - 78' )
- 06 Xavi (Cuenca - 86' )
- 08 Iniesta
- 10 Messi
- 14 Mascherano
- 16 Busquets Booked
- 09 Sanchez (Pedrito - 66' Booked )
- 13 Pinto
- 03 Pique
- 32 Bartra
- 11 Thiago
- 15 Keita
- 23 Cuenca
- 17 Pedrito