Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says his side only made one mistake, and came very close to playing a perfect game last night at home against Barcelona. The Stamford Bridge leg of the Blues’ UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie ended in a 1-1 draw. Forward Willian, arguably the best player on the pitch Tuesday night, scored Chelsea’s only goal, putting the hosts up early, but Lionel Messi finally scored his first goal ever against Chelsea, equalizing 13 minutes later.
Messi hadn’t scored in his first eight games against Chelsea, but he made good in his ninth contest after Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen made an unfortunate pass. The mistake led to Andres Iniesta setting up Messi, and Barca emerged with a crucial away goal, as the two teams will meet again March 14 in Catalonia.
“I think we paid dearly for one mistake. Against this opponent, this type of player like Messi, Iniesta, [Luis] Suarez … if you make a mistake, you pay,” Antonio Conte said after the match.
“It’s a pity because I think, tonight, at the end of the game we are disappointed with the final result. But, at the same time, this game must give us a lot of confidence to trust that, in the second leg, qualification is open.”
Both Cesc Fabregas and Willian echoed the sentiment of the Italian, expressing both pride in playing such a good game, but also regret that they couldn’t achieve a winning result. Fabregas, Conte and Willian also believe the tie is still wide open and feel optimistic about the team’s chances heading into the Camp Nou.
“It won’t be easy, we must be realistic because we are talking about Barcelona, and they showed they are a fantastic, strong team, but we showed, too, that if we are ready to work very hard together defensively, but at the same time continue to have the right feeling when we win the ball and are with the ball to create the chances to score, we can try to do something incredible at the Nou Camp,” Conte continued.
The embattled Chelsea manager summated the contest thusly: “We were very close to playing a perfect game.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.
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