He only needed a second to score. Lionel Messi, kept at bay for 89 minutes of an enthralling Champions League Round of 16 tie at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, pounced on one tiny lapse to equalise and spoil Chelsea’s night.
A 1-1 draw at home to Barcelona would, on any other night, have been a good result.
But Chelsea deserved all three points after Willian – currently enjoying one of his real purple patches with the club – scored shortly after the hour mark.
The Blues had absorbed spells of overwhelming possession by the Spanish side. Indeed, it was no surprise that the comparative figures for keeping the ball were 71% and 29% in Barca’s favour.
But it was Chelsea who came closest to scoring in the first half, Willian striking both posts in two lightning counter-attacks.
Antonio Conte’s tactics were spot-on. He acknowledged that the skillful Catalans would enjoy possession, and encouraged Chelsea to absorb it. Then, with Barcelona lulled into thinking holding the ball somehow equated to controlling the game, the Blues countered.
Willian collected a Cesc Fabregas corner on the edge of the area, took a couple of quick touches, then slid the ball past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Thirteen minutes later, a moment of defensive confusion was all that Messi needed to finally score against Chelsea. He intercepted a rare poorly weighted cross by Andreas Christensen to level.
That away goal may be crucial when the sides meet in the return leg.
Meanwhile, Chelsea head to Manchester this weekend, for a league reunion with their old chum Jose Mourinho.