Lionel Messi ends Chelsea drought to give Barcelona Champions League last-16 edge

Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates with Andres Iniesta scoring his side's first goal during a Champions League round of sixteen first leg. (AP)
Updated 21 February 2018
0

Lionel Messi ends Chelsea drought to give Barcelona Champions League last-16 edge

LONDON: Lionel Messi struck for the first time in nine games against Chelsea to give Barcelona the upper hand from the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday by salvaging a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Willian’s fine strike just after the hour mark had put Chelsea in command after earlier hitting both posts in the first half.
However, one moment of carelessness cost Chelsea dear as Andres Iniesta intercepted Andreas Christensen’s pass to tee up Messi to swing the balance of the tie in Barca’s favor 15 minutes from time.
The English champions must now score when they travel to the Camp Nou on March 14 to have any chance of making the last eight.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sprang a surprise before kick-off by leaving out both Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata with Eden Hazard instead operating in the middle of a front three featuring Willian and former Barca winger Pedro Rodriguez.
And it was Hazard who sent the first warning that Barca were in for an uncomfortable evening when he fired just over from 20 yards five minutes in.
Antonio Rudiger also headed just wide in a positive opening from the hosts, but it was Barca who had the first clear chance on 16 minutes.
Chelsea constantly tried to surround Messi with three or four blue shirts to limit the Argentine’s threat, but he dug out a cross to the far post where an unmarked Paulinho headed wide.
Barca then went on to dominate possession for a large spell of the first half with their control of the ball reaching 80 percent at one stage.
However, the visitors lacked penetration before the break and were lucky to go in level at half-time.
Willian showed his ability to score from outside the box off either foot with a double against Hull City to take Chelsea into the FA Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
He was inches away from another long-range stunner when he curled onto the post from 25 yards with Marc-Andre ter Stegen beaten in the Barca goal.
Barca had kept six clean sheets in their previous seven Champions League games, but once again had good luck rather than good defending to thank four minutes before the break when Willian hooked another effort from outside the box off the woodwork.
Hazard then volleyed just over as Chelsea ended the half on a high.
Barca appeared to have restored order early second period, but failed to learn their lesson of Willian’s danger from the edge of the box.
A short corner was worked into the Brazilian’s path and he arrowed a low shot past the rooted Ter Stegen.
However, Barca remain unbeaten in 31 La Liga and Champions League games under Ernesto Valverde thanks to a late rally.
Luis Suarez had claims for a penalty waved away when he went down under pressure from Rudiger.
But Barca’s protests had barely been silenced before they were level.
Christensen’s dangerous ball across his own box was a gift for an old scourge of Chelsea in Iniesta.
At the end where he broke Chelsea hearts with a stoppage-time equalizer in a highly controversial semifinal in 2009, Iniesta this time squared for Messi to apply the finishing touch low past Thibaut Courtois for his 28th goal of the season.


Mickey Arthur calls on Pakistan to prove India defeat was one-off

Updated 20 September 2018
0

Mickey Arthur calls on Pakistan to prove India defeat was one-off

  • Pakistan coach wants improved performance when side next face big rivals India on Sunday in the UAE.
  • Asia Cup now down to Super Four stage.

LONDON: Mickey Arthur is confident Pakistan can bounce back from their big defeat against India in Dubai on Wednesday.
Arthur’s side lost by eight wickets to their arch-rivals in the final clash of the group stage at the Asia Cup, taking place in the UAE.
It came less than 24 hours after India struggled to beat Hong Kong, but Rohit Sharma’s side hit the disappointment of that performance for six to easily beat Pakistan.
Despite the defeat Arthur is sure his side can turn things around in the Super Four stage and go all the way and win the tournament.
“Whenever we go head-to-head with India, I am comfortable that we’ve got a dressing room of players who can stand up to it,” the Pakistan coach said.
“I am comfortable we’ve got a dressing room of players who, on any given day, can win. So I still think it’s a 50-50. Lucky this game was inconsequential in the tournament.”
Pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar (three for 15) and part time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (three for 23) sent Pakistan, who won the toss and batted, collapsing to just 162 all out in 43.1 overs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Skipper Sharma then struck three sixes and six boundaries in his 39-ball 52 while fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan hit a six and six fours in his 54-ball 46 as India romped home in just 29 overs.
Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik both finished on 31 not out as India exacted some revenge for their humbling 180-run defeat against their arch-rivals in the final of the Champions Trophy in London last year — the most recent match between the teams until Wednesday.

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur was not a happy man after watching his Pakistan side soundly beaten by India in Dubai. 


Both Pakistan and India had already qualified for the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup and will meet again in Dubai on Sunday. When they do Arthur will doubtless be looking for a response and for his side to stick to the set plans.
“On a wicket like that you need to strike really if you’re going to defend it. We didn’t strike early enough,” Arthur said.
“We went away from our plans too quickly. We said that our batters batted outside our roles and that wasn’t acceptable. With our bowling, we went outside our plans far too quickly. We wanted to bowl hard lengths, hit the top of off stump.
“It was tough to score then. We did that in the first six, and then (Usman Khan) Shinwari decided to come around the wicket and bowl a bouncer with fine leg up. And from there it just tumbled.
“We’re going to sit down and talk about that. It’s not good enough. We went outside our plans.
“That’s not acceptable. I think there was a bit of panic when they didn’t strike early.”
Also of concern to the Pakistan coach is the form of Mohammad Amir. The side’s main bowler has looked out of form recently and has struggled for wickets since last year’s Champions Trophy win.
“I’d be lying if I sat here and said there wasn’t (any concern about Amir),” Arthur said.
“I had a really good, long hard chat with him last night and I thought he came out and bowled really well. He hit the crease really hard. He ran in well. He’s been decelerating to the crease, but he didn’t do that today.
“He seemed more fluent, there was a little bit more pace there. And I was comfortable (with what he did), he bowled well. 
There is pressure on him, of course there is.”
There was much hype surrounding the clash, as there always is with any India vs. Pakistan match, but once Pakistan’s unpredictable batting crumbled, Wednesday’s showdown turned into a damp squib for a near-capacity crowd in the UAE. They will all hope that Sunday’s rerun will dish up more drama and entertainment.