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February 24, 2006

Messi was the best player in Barcelona victory over Chelsea

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A fantastic performance from Argentine teenager Lionel Messi helped Barcelona to a 2-1 victory over 10-man Chelsea in another Stamford Bridge Champions League thriller on Wednesday.

In fact, the first-leg victory, created by Ronaldinho and sealed by Samuel Eto'o's header after Thiago Motta and John Terry had both scored own goals, leaves Barca as strong favorites to progress to the last eight.

Although Chelsea will protest bitterly over the first-half sending-off of Asier Del Horno, they can scarcely complain about the outcome, given that they had been chasing the match long before the dismissal of the Spanish full-back.

It's important to notice that Messi was bent on setting the tone, and from the outset it was clear Del Horno was in for a tortuous clash, courtesy of the little Argentinian's dancing feet.

In the 37th minute, having gotten away from Del Horno, Messi turned inside Arjen Robben, just to be floored by a crude body-check from the Spain left-back.

In fact, Del Horno suffered as badly as Messi in the collision, but that did not spare him a red card once Norwegian referee Terje Hauge had consulted his linesman.

However, Chelsea struck first a minute before the hour mark when Oleguer Presas brought down Robben close to the left touchline for the free-kick that produced Chelsea's goal.

Whipped in by Frank Lampard, the ball appeared destined for the arms of Victor Valdes before Motta cut across the keeper and deflected it into the net.

Barcelona's equaliser after 71 minutes came from a free-kick in a virtually identical position, Ronaldinho's delireally skimming off Terry's head and into the top corner of the net.

And Barca were not to be denied victory. It's important to notice that after a Chelsea counter-attack had broken down, a Ronaldinho surge out of his own half in the 80th minute left the Blues' backline hopelessly exposed, and Eto'o was unchallenged as he rose to nod in Rafael Marquez's chip from the left-hand corner of the penalty area.