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Except while they suffered they were knocked out and Messi, inevitably, inflicted the damage with two goals and a brilliant assist. He has now scored times in games in this competition and he reached his century by nut-megging goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The result means that the five English clubs in the last 16 have been reduced to just two, with only Manchester City and Liverpool surviving. Not that Chelsea went out with a whimper like Manchester United.
If it was not for Messi — an extremely big if — they may well have prevailed with Willian again their most impressive performer. Messi scored in both legs and now has 20 goals in his last 18 games against English sides, and to think he did not score at all in his first eight meetings with Chelsea.
For Conte there is just the FA Cup and a desperate fight to finish in the Premier League top four left before his expected departure from Chelsea. What else could he do? But, as with the fixture at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea contributed to their downfall.
As if they had not seen that before. Those fans were soon cheering even louder, and for a moment that counted. Barcelona had held the ball, probing from side to side, for just over 90 seconds from kick-off before Antonio Rudiger slid in to concede a throw-in. Who fizzed and who flopped at Nou Camp? From it Barcelona passed and passed again and, this time, the second Chelsea touch of the game saw the ball cannon off Marcos Alonso and back to Luis Suarez who quickly found Messi.
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There were 41 Barcelona passes before the goal — and not one by Chelsea. Barcelona 1 - 0 Chelsea Lionel Messi, 3 min A tall order for Chelsea had become even taller but, with Olivier Giroud starting at centre-forward, they began to push on and a Willian free-kick was diverted into the side-netting before Ter Stegen held a low shot from the Brazilian.
His previous outing at Stamford Bridge was on loan at West Bromwich Albion in February when he lasted just four minutes before being substituted with an injury that would keep him out for another month.
This time he was on the same pitch for four of the regulation 90 minutes and ended up stealing the show, even from Eden Hazard, the little maestro who scored his sixth league goal of the season. He has lost his place in the England team in the four years since his best season in a Liverpool shirt, and perhaps it is the quality of moments like these that just add to the frustration of what might have been.
Klopp was clear that he was glad his striker was still being decisive but also that Salah had to accept these difficult games when the ball would not go in. You fail, you miss — that happens.
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He could have finished again. It is like riding a bike. It is not like you wake up and cannot ride a bike anymore. You need to work for these moments when it is clicking.
And that is the moment he is in, no problem with that. Certainly he is playing so well that the question is more what his team would be like without him.
- Barcelona 3 Chelsea 0; agg 4-1: Lionel Messi too good for Antonio Conte's starstruck side
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Sarri still refuses to consider his team as contenders for the Premier League title even though they remain unbeaten in third place. In the end, the draw felt about right and both managers embraced after the final whistle with genuine warmth and, perhaps, a little relief on both sides. Sturridge was booed when he came on to the pitch by the Chelsea faithful Credit: