LONDON – Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said his side played almost the perfect game against Champions League favourites Barcelona on Tuesday, but he was still disappointed with the 1-1 home leg result.
The Italian’s Premier League champions have struggled to impose themselves in domestic football this season but soaked up Barcelona pressure before Willian scored in the 62nd minute of their last-16 first leg tie.
“I think we were very close to playing a perfect game,” Conte said.
“We made one mistake but against these opponents like (Lionel) Messi, (Andres) Iniesta and (Luis) Suarez, if you make a mistake you pay.”
Barca had two shots on target and scored with the second, when Iniesta cut the ball back to Messi in the 75th minute with the Chelsea defence out of position.
“It’s a pity and we are disappointed with the final result but at the same time I think this game must give us a lot of confidence to trust the second leg. The qualification is open,” Conte said.
“It won’t be easy but tonight we showed that if we are ready to work very hard together defensively, to continue to have the right feeling when you are with the ball to have the chance to score then we have the chance to do something incredible at the Nou Camp.”
Chelsea travel to Barcelona for the second leg on March 14.
Conte had spent much of the first half hopping and skipping along the touchline, gesticulating wildly at his players to push forward in an attempt to wrest possession from the Catalan side.
The statistics, 68 percent possession for the visitors against 32 for the home side, disguised an absorbing, balanced match in which Chelsea enjoyed the better chances.
Willian hit the post twice in the first half before putting the ball away into the bottom corner set up by Eden Hazard.
“We gave too much space to Willian to shoot. The pass to him was perfect, the control was perfect,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.
“They might be happy with the result… they pressed us high and made it difficult for us but anything can change in the Nou Camp.
“The away goal isn’t definitive but it is important,” Valverde added. – Reuters