Chelsea boss Antonio Conte admits his side were powerless to prevent the brilliance of Barcelona's Lionel Messi wreaking havoc as the Stamford Bridge outfit crashed out of the Champions League.
Messi brought up his century of Champions League goals with a strike in each half, the first coming after just 128 seconds, as £135.5m midfielder Ousmane Dembele also netted.
The Blues followed in the footsteps of Tottenham and Manchester United in departing the tournament at the last-16 stage and having just the FA Cup to focus upon in terms of potential silverware this term. La Liga frontrunners Barcelona, on the other hand, progress to tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.
“Over the two legs, Messi made the difference and we know very well we are talking about the best player in the world,” said Conte.
“He finishes every season with 60 goals and we are not talking about a top player but a super top player. He made the difference but we have no regrets.
“I think over the two legs we were a bit unlucky because we hit the post four times. Barcelona were very clinical tonight, whereas we created many chances but did not take them.
“But I must be pleased with the commitment of my players. I’m very proud because they gave everything tonight and maybe we didn’t deserve to lose 3-0.”
Chelsea had not lost on their four previous Champions League visits to Camp Nou but trailed inside three minutes as Messi scored the quickest goal of his Barcelona career. The 30-year-old fired through the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from an acute angle following a clever flick from Luis Suarez.
Chelsea were in danger of crumbling when Barcelona doubled their lead on 20 minutes as Cesc Fabregas conceded possession and Messi skipped beyond Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta before squaring for Dembele to rifle into the roof of the net.
The Blues had their moments and for long periods were on the front foot. N’Golo Kante burst through but screwed wide when Fabregas was perhaps best placed to covert, while Marcos Alonso’s free-kick clipped the outside of the post in first-half stoppage-time.
Chelsea remained a prominent attacking force in the second period until Messi settled matters on 63 minutes. It started with a misplaced Azpilicueta pass, although it was Messi’s change of pace which took three Chelsea defenders out of the equation, allowing him to steer another shot through the legs of Courtois.
There was still time for an Antonio Rudiger header to hit the crossbar late on.