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English Premiership

Honours even

BARCELONA, Apr 29 – Chelsea saw mission accomplished after they stood firm against a barrage from Barcelona at the Camp Nou to draw 0-0 in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final here on Tuesday leaving the hosts goalless for the first time at home this season in the competition.XAVIAs expected Barca took the game to Chelsea and enjoyed the vast majority of the possession but they were unable to find a way through to goal.

Petr Cech made a couple of important blocks from Samuel Eto’o and substitute Alexandr Hleb but too often they were restricted to strikes from distance.

"This was a good result but the tie is not decided yet and we have another very hard game ahead of us," said Chelsea’s manager Guus Hiddink.

"It was not an easy game to play and we will have to improve in some areas for the next match but overall I am happy as we defended very well.

"Barca keep the ball very well and so it meant we had to defend a lot but we defended very well and I have to praise (John) Terry for his courage."

Barca coach Pep Guardiola was left frustrated at Chelsea’s negative approach to the game.

"It is difficult to play against a team which doesn’t want to play football," said the 37-year-old, who has revived the side since replacing Frank Rijkaard after the Dutchman was sacked following a disappointing last campaign.

"It was a game in which Chelsea had five defenders and the ball was always Cech to (Didier) Drogba and then backwards and forwards.

"The result was just, though, because neither side scored but there is something wrong when we ended up with the same number of yellow cards as they did and yet they committed 20 fouls compared to seven," he said.

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Eto’o, who it has been denied is subject to a 40million pound bid from Manchester City, said that there was hope for Barcelona in the second leg because Chelsea could not just lie back in their half the whole time.

"We had all the chances," said the Cameroon marksman.

"I would imagine they won’t be able to play in the second leg like they did tonight by sitting back in their half.

"We will see how they are going to approach it. We will try and score the goal that we need to get us to the final."

Chelsea skipper Terry conceded that Barcelona had had the majority of the chances but was delighted to have come away with the draw.

"We stayed very tight at the back," said Terry, whose missed penalty in last year’s final handed victory to Manchester United.

"It was a fantastic performance and to not concede a goal is delightful.

"Hopefully going back to the Bridge (Stamford Bridge) we can use that to our advantage."

In the pre-match build-up Xavi Hernandez predicted a battle between Barca’s passing game and Chelsea’s more physical approach and this proved to be the case after a predictably tense opening in which both teams felt each other out.

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To deal with the aerial challenge Gerard Pique was preferred at the heart of the Barca defence alongside Rafa Marquez with club captain Carles Puyol surprisingly left on the bench.

For Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink decided to pack the midfield playing John Mikel Obi and dropping striker Nicolas Anelka despite claiming his team would go out and attack.

Barca began probing the visitors defence and their quick movement left the Chelsea backline at full stretch.

An interchange between Eto’o and Xavi saw the Cameroon international shoot wide from the edge of the area while Xavi himself and Lionel Messi also tested the Chelsea goal.

Chelsea looked to contain Barca with strong challenges but at times they went over the top and both Alex and Michael Ballack were booked mid-way through the first-half.

Before the interval in a rare foray forward Drogba could have given Chelsea the lead when an error from Marquez put him through on goal but he fired straight at the keeper. Barca too went close with Thierry Henry forcing a save from Cech at his near post.

Chelsea continued to defend deeply and while they battled hard it is an ominous task to last out a full 90 minutes against the quality of the Barca attack but that is just what they did.

Marquez was carried off for Barcelona in what turned out to be a season ending injury.

In the final stages Barca desperate for a lead to take to Stamford Bridge brought on Bojan Krkic and Hleb but they too could not conjure a goal although the ex-Arsenal player Hleb saw a shot saved well by Cech in injury time.

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