Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona

UEFA Champions League quarter-final

Adrian Sherling reporting

What Chelsea can achieve, when they give their all, is simply stunning. A three-goal blitz in eight first-half minutes stunned Barcelona, giving the Blues a great chance to reach the Champions League semi-finals.

Gianfranco Zolas free-kick and a brace from Tore Andre Flo sent an ominous warning to the rest of Europe that Gianluca Vialli's side are certainly not, as Barcelona believed, the weak links of the tournament.

The Spanish side, favourites in the competition and the only unbeaten side throughout the Champions League, were simply routed in an ecstatic Stamford Bridge.

After a slow opening in which the teams sized each other up, 15 minutes in, the game exploded into life. Ed de Goey saved superbly from Rivaldos free-kick and Gabris snap shot, while Zola and Jody Morris both miskicked when given a sight of goal.

One of Marcel Desaillys best ever games was against Barcelona as he scored in Milans 4-0 demolition in the 1994 European Cup final and only a wonderful save from Ruud Hesp kept out his powerful header from Zolas cross. Chelsea were almost playing as the away team, breaking up the Barca moves and breaking away quickly. With Zola dropping off the defence, the Spaniards did not know how to defend against it.

Zola put the Blues into the lead on the half-hour with an inch-perfect 20-yard free-kick curling beautifully inside the near post, although suspicions remain over the speed at which Hesp reacted.

Four minutes later and Flo doubled the advantage, finishing off a classy move featuring Zola and Albert Ferrer with a neat near post finish.

Just as the Chelsea fans sat down, they were sent into raptures yet again as Flo outpaced Fernandez Abelardo to latch onto Didier Deschamps long ball and lob the ball past Hesp to complete the first-half blitz.

The Blues were on the back foot for much of the second half , content to hold the Barcelona big guns at bay. The Spaniards were given few chances, yet one effective, yet brutally simple move gave them the away goal that could prove so vital.

Cocu and Rivaldo combined beautifully and the Brazilians cross was neatly stroked home by Portuguese international Luis Figo to make the second leg very intriguing.

Desailly failed to make contact with Zolas cross with the goal gaping ten minutes from time and breaking quickly, Figo should have grabbed his second. Trading passes with Gabri, he found some space, yet hit his 15-yard shot wastefully over the bar.

A word of warning though history shows that the tie is far from over. In 1978, Ipswich led 3-0 from the first-leg against the Catalonians and still went out. Chelsea too, have fallen to a similar fate, winning the home leg of the 1966 Fairs Cup semi-final by two goals, yet not reaching the final.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Thome, Babayaro, Petrescu (Di Matteo 71), Wise, Deschamps, Morris, Flo (Sutton 87), Zola.
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Hogh, Poyet, Lambourde, Harley.
Booked: Petrescu, Zola.
Goals: Zola 30, Flo 34, 38.

Barcelona: Hesp, Puyol (Litmanen 46), Abelardo, F. De Boer, Bogarde, Gabri, Xavi, Cocu, Figo, Kluivert (Dani 71), Rivaldo.
Subs Not Used: Arnau, Reiziger, Dehu, Guardiola, Simao.
Booked: Figo, Gabri, Cocu.
Goals: Figo 64.

Att: 33,662
Ref: Markus Merk (Germany).