Barcelona were clinical, Chelsea were not.
Messi had three shots, he scored on two. Chelsea hit the woodwork twice and despite looking dangerous, never converted on an excellent amount of possession (45%) and attacking play (14 shots, 3 on target.)
In his post-match press conference, Conte says that’s exactly what he saw too.
Messi was Messi.
Conte on Lionel Messi: 'It's right to recognise a super, super, super, top player. We are talking about a player who in every season is able to score 60 goals. We are talking about an extraordinary player. The best in the world.'#BARCHE— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 14, 2018
But Chelsea had their chances.
They just didn’t take them.
Conte: 'If you watch the game you can see the final result is unfair. Our start was terrible, to concede a goal after only two minutes, but after this we tried to play football. Over the two legs we hit the post four times.' #BARCHE— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 14, 2018
With a Champions League place yet to play for as well as the FA Cup, no manager would rake his team over the coals after a game like that. He needs to keep their confidence up.
And yet you have the think that when Conte praises their effort, he means it.
Conte: 'It is a pity. At the same time, I must be honest. I must be very proud about my players - they gave everything and we have to continue in this way, with this will to fight and desire to fight together.'#BARCHE— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 14, 2018
Thibaut Courtois had a bit of a horror show and we’re covering that in a separate story.
But we have to face the fact that, even if he had stopped everything, Chelsea might still be out tonight because they couldn’t score.
That’s despite a magnificent game from N’Golo Kante, who clearly established that he belongs among the very best.
N'Golo Kante was sensational tonight, by the way, won't get spoken about a lot amid the defeat. He can hold his head high and he should have been playing at this level years ago pic.twitter.com/kUZyC1As38— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) March 14, 2018
One incident might have changed the story of the game, if not the outcome.
Marcos Alonso appeared to have been pulled down or tripped in the penalty area in the second half.
Referee Damir Skomina wasn’t interested.
Conte thinks he should have been.
Conte feels we should have had a penalty when Marcos Alonso went down in the second half. That, he said, could have allowed us to put more pressure on Barcelona.#BARCHE— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 14, 2018
So, a disappointed manager and his troops are heading back to London, and from there on to Leicester City in the FA Cup on the weekend.
With rumors still swirling about his future, Conte was asked in the tunnel interview which sideline he’d be gesticulating wildly from next season.
The reporter had to ask, totally fair question. But nobody thinks Conte was going to give him a serious answer. We got what you’d expect.
Besides, there’s more work, discipline and perhaps even suffering ahead for the players. Conte left them with this positive thought:
On to Leicester and a chance for redemption in the FA Cup.