Messi-inspired Barcelona knock Chelsea out of Champions League

From BBC - March 14, 2018

Chelsea went out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage as Barcelona forward Lionel Messi punished an error-ridden display in the Nou Camp.

Following a 1-1 draw in the first leg, the visitors fell behind after just 128 seconds as Lionel Messi shot through the legs of Thibaut Courtois from a tight angle.

Messi then set up Ousmane Dembele to hammer home the second after Cesc Fabregas lost possession.

Marcos Alonso hit the post for Chelsea with a free-kick before Messi's 100th Champions League goal - after a mistake by Cesar Azpilicueta - took the hosts out of sight.

Alonso was then denied a penalty after a challenge by Gerard Pique as Barcelona joined La Liga rivals Real Madrid and Sevilla in Friday's quarter-final draw.

Chelsea, meanwhile, join fellow Premier League clubs Manchester United and Tottenham in exiting in the first knockout round.

What next for Conte?

Chelsea's elimination by the five-time winners is bound to add to the speculation about manager Antonio Conte's future.

The Blues' hopes of retaining the Premier League title ended weeks ago, and they may not even secure the top-four finish they need to return to the Champions League.

Conte's side are fifth in the table, four points behind Liverpool, with their next league game at home to third-placed Tottenham on 1 April.

They head to Leicester on Sunday for an FA Cup quarter-final knowing defeat will leave them without a trophy for the second time in three seasons.

Conte, who has been in charge since the summer of 2016, has a contract until the summer of 2019 but has had to deny reports of a rift with the club's owners.

Speaking last month, the 48-year-old Italian said it is his "intention, will and desire" to stay at Stamford Bridge.

However, Chelsea have lost four of their past six league games, including back-to-back defeats by Bournemouth and Watford.

Defensive frailties cost Chelsea

Chelsea led for 13 minutes of the first leg, but were ultimately well beaten in the tie as Messi finished with three goals over the two matches.

Barca on course for treble

Man of the match - Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

'My players gave everything' - Conte

What's next?


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