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Subdued Barcelona held scoreless
by Paul Kennedy, April 29th, 2009 7AM

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[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] Barcelona promised much but delivered little against a packed Chelsea defense in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal series at the Camp Nou on Tuesday. Despite a huge edge in possession, Barca had to settle for a 0-0 tie. To make matters worse, Mexican star Rafael Marquez injured his knee and was lost for the season.

Goalie Petr Cech, heavily criticized after giving up seven goals in back-to-back games, was outstanding in goal for Chelsea. He made good saves on Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o and sub Bojan Krkic.

Argentine Lionel Messi, on the other hand, had a quiet game for Barcelona against a packed Chelsea defense.

"Messi was rather well neutralized tactically tonight," said Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink. "[Jose] Bosingwa did a good job and had some help from [Florent] Malouda on the left side and good support from the center as well when Messi cut inside. It can happen one night that you stop him, but I don't think it will happen twice."

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said Messi played well under the circumstances.

"He was the victim of extremely tight marking so it was not easy for him to find space," Guardiola said. "I think he did great given the circumstances."

Guardiola blasted German referee Wolfgang Stark.

"The referee didn't have his best performance today and that's sad," Guardiola said. "I just don't think it's fair when one team is trying to play creatively and attack and the other just sits back. It's not just."

Marquez went off clutching his knee after going down without contact. He was replaced by Carles Pujol, who will be suspended for next Wednesday's second leg in London following a booking.

"They are very important players," Guardiola said of his central defenders, "but that's no excuse for not getting to the final, and we will find a solution for sure. Definitely the loss of Rafa is the worst news of the day but I think it will make us stronger."

April 28 in Barcelona
Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0.
Barcelona --
Valdes, Daniel Alves, Gerard, Marquez (Puyol, 52), Abidal, Xavi, Toure, Iniesta, Messi, Eto'o (Bojan, 82), Henry (Hleb, 87).
Chelsea -- Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Bosingwa, Essien, Mikel, Ballack (Anelka, 90+5), Lampard (Belletti, 71), Malouda, Drogba.
Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany).
Att.: 95,000.


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