At the eighth time of trying, Lionel Messi was finally able to cast off the shackles and prove himself a semi-decent prospect by scoring his very first goal against Chelsea when Barcelona rolled into town on Tuesday night.
The two sides offered up an entertaining 1-1 draw in the first leg of their last-16 showpiece.
It wasn’t a classic to sit alongside the crackling 2009 semi-final or the Helm’s Deep-style (28% possession!) ransack of the Camp Nou in 2012, but it certainly had its charm.
Chelsea, playing without a recognised striker on the pitch, did a fine job of stifling Barca throughout a goalless first half before taking a deserved lead on the hour.
After hitting either post with a couple of near-identical sighters earlier in the match, Willian finally got the goal his performance had warranted, using a crowded penalty area to smuggle a low shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen…
However, after successfully limiting their visitors to a smattering of paltry half-chances, the Blues were ahead for precisely 13 minutes before their sole defensive lapse of the evening gifted Barca an equaliser.
After surviving a penalty call when Antonio Rudiger tangled with Luis Suarez underneath a long ball, Andreas Christensen swept up the loose ends only to send an overly ambitious pass trundling across his own 18-yard box – a pass which ended up at the feet of Andres Iniesta, who wasted no time in teeing up you-know-who…
So that’s 546 career goals for Messi, with one against Chelsea to add to the 545 he’s scored against absolutely everybody else.
He’s made it. He’s finally made it.
And so the game ended much in the same vein it began, with Antonio Conte’s men matching Barca stride-for-stride (Cesc Fabregas in particular putting in a selfless defensive shift) without either side really dominating the occasion.
It should be enough to give the Blues hope of escaping the Camp Nou with the aggregate spoils when the two teams meet again for the second leg next month.