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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chelsea shuts out Barca

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Chelsea did what very few teams have been able to do, holding Barcelona to a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinals.

The Spanish leaders were held scoreless for the first time since a league defeat on the opening weekend of the season. It was the first shutout on home soil since Manchester United drew 0-0 at the same stage of the competition last year.

"We're pleased with the result because when you look at the short history of Barcelona and how their results have been and how they've been able to score, it's quite an achievement against a team that plays beautiful football as we saw tonight," Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said.

Both goalkeepers made key saves, with Victor Valdes getting his hands up quickly to stop Didier Drogba's shot following a Barcelona defensive lapse in the 39th minute.

Drogba jumped on Rafael Marquez's poor backpass for an attempt from inside the area but the Chelsea striker couldn't control the rebound from Valdes, who poked the ball away before the danger was cleared.

"We would have loved to have won, to have scored, but I think we played well," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. "I don't see that there is anything we can be blamed for."

Barcelona's defense will be short-handed for the return leg at Stamford Bridge on May 6 after Marquez was lost for the season with a knee injury. His replacement, Carles Puyol, was suspended after being booked in the 74th minute.

"Rafa's loss was the worst news today," Guardiola said.

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech was busy, too, diving to keep Samuel Eto'o's shot out in the 70th after the striker had shaken off Alex to get a clear chance from close range.

Cech made several late saves, the most notable coming on substitute Aleksandr Hleb moments after Bojan Krkic had headed a clear chance from point-blank range over the bar.

The Chelsea goalkeeper rushed out to the left side to block Hleb after the late substitute had been able to move into the area for the dangerous opportunity as Barcelona pressed following Eto'o's chance.

Eto'o had run into the area before pulling back to shake off Alex, but Cech kept the low shot out at the near side.

"They won't be able to play like they did today, just waiting on everything in their own half," Eto'o said. "Drawing at home is not a bad thing for the team. Playing away in the return leg just means we have to score that away goal that will settle us."

Guardiola surprisingly left Puyol on the bench and Marquez's defensive error nearly cost the hosts.

Drogba's chance — Chelsea's only shot on goal to Barcelona's 12 — seemed to rejuvenate the Blues, who had spent most of the first half holding off Barcelona's talented forwards, with Andres Iniesta creating most of the danger.

Lionel Messi had few chances as Florent Malouda and Jose Bosingwa — filling in for the suspended Ashley Cole — kept the Argentine in check, with Messi only managing two high shots from outside the area.

"He was having an unusual game this night," Hiddink said. "Of course there's always pressure but when you play in the big teams in Spain or England there's always pressure. It can happen one night but he can cope with the pressure."

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