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
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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.


TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations and scandal surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Updated 9 min 3 sec ago
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TIMELINE: The trail of corruption allegations and scandal surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Michel Platini, the former FIFA executive board member and French football legend, has been detained for questioning by French police over allegations of corruption related to Qatar being awarded the FIFA 2022 World Cup.

The development is the latest in a long line of investigations and allegations against the shock decision in December 2010.

November 2010

An alleged “secret meeting” takes place in Paris between the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Qatar's then-Crown Prince (now Emir) Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Michel Platini, who at that time was both UEFA president and vice-president of FIFA.

December 2010

FIFA announces that Qatar will stage the 22nd World Cup, winning 14 of the 22 executive committee votes - including Platini’s. The decision is met with surprise, derision and suspicion.

January 2011

The then FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he expects the competition to be held in winter, to avoid the summer heat.

May 2011

A former member of the Qatari bid, Phaedra Al-Majid, claims that money was paid to members of FIFA’s executive committee in order to buy votes.

The Qatar 2022 bid team deny any wrongdoing, saying their name had been “dragged through the mud for no reason.”

June 2011

FIFA executive committee member, the Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam, is found guilty of bribery and banned from all international and national football activity for life. 

July 2011

Al-Majid retracts her claims of corruption, but later says she did so after being coerced by Qatar’s organising committee.

July 2012

FIFA commissions a report into allegations of corruption led by Michael Garcia, head of its ethics committee.

September 2013

Amnesty International uncovers “human rights abuses” on World Cup construction projects, releasing a report that details “an alarming level of exploitation.” In the years that follow, human rights groups issue report after report documenting abuses towards the workforce building Qatar's World Cup infrastructure.

June 2014

The Sunday Times reports that Hammam had made payments to football officials in return for votes for Qatar.

December 2014

Garcia resigns after losing an appeal against FIFA’s decision to publish what he described as an “erroneous” summary of his 430-page report.

May 2015

Seven FIFA officials are arrested in Zurich for alleged racketeering, conspiracy and corruption while Swiss authorities raid the FIFA headquarters looking for evidence linked to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

June 2015

Blatter resigns after 17 years in charge of Fifa.

 

September 2015

Swiss authorities open criminal proceedings against Blatter focusing on a payment of two million Swiss francs to Platini. The payment was for work carried out by Platini as a consultant for FIFA between January 1999 and June 2002, but was not executed until 2011 - three months after Qatar won its bid to host the World Cup.

October 2015

Blatter accuses Platini of going back on an agreement that Russia would host the 2018 World Cup and the USA would host the 2022 tournament. Blatter says Platini changed his mind and backed Qatar after the November 2010 meeting with Sarkozy and Sheikh Tamim in Paris.

December 2015

Blatter and Platini are banned from football for eight years by FIFA’s ethics committee.

April 2017

The National Public Prosecutor’s Office in France launches an investigation into how and why the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were awarded to Russia and Qatar.

June 2017

Fifa finally releases Garcia’s full report on corruption at the organization.

June 2019

Platini held for questioning by French police in Paris as part of the  investigation into the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.