Eto'o header jolts 10-man Chelsea
LONDON, England —— Barcelona took a huge step towards the Champions League quarterfinals with a 2-1 win against 10-man Chelsea in Wednesday's first leg match at Stamford Bridge.
African player of the year Samuel Eto'o headed the winner in the 80th minute and only brave defending in the dying minutes stopped Barcelona scoring three or even four.
Chelsea had Spanish left back Asier Del Horno sent off in the 37th minute for a late challenge on Argentine teenager Lionel Messi.
The west Ondon club showed more aggression despite their numerical disadvantage in the second half and were rewarded when tumbling midfielder Thiago Motta knocked the ball into his own net from a Frank Lampard free kick in the 59th minute.
But another own goal levelled the scores in the 71st when Terry headed into his own net from a Ronaldinho free kick before Eto'o popped up to score Barca's 300th goal in Europe's elite club competition as he climbed high to clinch the victory.
It was Chelsea's first home defeat in open play in any match for two years and they now face an uphill task of reaching the last eight when they visit the Nou Camp on March 7.
The match was played at a breath-taking tempo throughout with players from both sides displaying the highest technical ability on the difficult surface.
However, the most dramatic moment of the first half came after 37 minutes when Del Horno clattered into Messi by the Chelsea goal-line.
After a fracas involving a dozen players Norwegian referee Terje Hauge showed the Chelsea fullback an automatic red card to the disgust of the home fans and bemused manager Jose Mourinho.
There was no doubt Del Horno played the man and not the ball but TV replays suggested he tried to evade the Argentine who took full advantage of the situation with a number of theatrical rolls on the ground after he fell.
"The kid (Messi) is not just a very good football player, he jumps, he provokes the contact with Del Horno and because of that the referee gives a red card. He rolls and rolls and rolls, it wasn't a red card, of course not," Mourinho told Sky TV.
"The game is then completely different. Before the red card it was a pure game, 11 against 11, two good teams tactically thinking a lot about the game, not many mistakes, not many chances but an open game.
"There is no point talking about the game after that. I will say I was very proud of my players and in the circumstances they played with a lot of heart."
Del Horno is given his marching orders against BarcelonaMourinho, a master of tactical substitutions immediately re-jigged his side, bringing on Geremi to shore up the left-hand side and sacrificing the creativity of Joe Cole in midfield.
Barca now had numerical superiority on the mud heap of a pitch and, after a brief Chelsea assault at the start of the second half, dominated the play with Ronaldinho at the heart of their attacks and Deco an inspiration in midfield.
Ronaldinho's free kick not only led to their opening goal but his powerful surge through the mud despite tiring legs 10 minutes from time set up substitute Henrik Larsson.
Larsson, in acres of space with a depleted home defence stretched to breaking point, played the ball back to Rafael Marquez whose whipped cross was headed home by Eto'o.
The goal gave Barcelona victory on the night and control of the tie ahead of the return leg in the Nou Camp on March 7 when they bid to avenge last season's elimination by Chelsea at the same stage.