Chelsea advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in 7 years following a second victory over Atlético Madrid.
Following an encouraging 1-0 victory in the first leg, Chelsea needed to avoid defeat against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday evening in order to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The Blues had not seen the last 8 of Europe’s most elite competition since the 2013/14 campaign. In that season, Chelsea was ironically eliminated by Atlético in the semi-finals – who qualified following a 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge.
On paper, it perhaps looked a relatively simple task for the Blues, who were yet to taste defeat in their only 12 games under Thomas Tuchel – conceding just 2 goals in the process.
However, need it be said – Diego Simeone’s Madrid side are currently sat first in La Liga.
The Spanish club had more than what it takes to turn the tables in South-West London, having been successful in 9 of their 11 two-legged knockout clashes against English opposition.
Following a 0-0 draw at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez against 10-man Getafe on the weekend, Simeone made two changes to his starting eleven, as Renan Lodi and João Félix replaced Mario Hermoso and Ángel Correa on the team sheet.
The Blues were without Thiago Silva, Tammy Abraham and Andreas Christensen, in addition to Jorginho and Mason Mount who were ineligible to play due to suspension.
Tuchel however made 5 alterations to his team, as Reece James, Kurt Zouma, Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovačić and Timo Werner all started.
Unlike the first leg of the tie, the match started at a quick pace from the opening whistle – with Madrid pressing the blue shirts well. Simeone’s side attempted to put Chelsea under pressure, as Madrid looked hungry and full of energy.
On the 17th minute, Portuguese starlet João Félix looked dangerous as he wiggled his way into a dangerous position inside the Chelsea box. However, just as Félix looked to test Mendy, the ever-present N’Golo Kantémanaged to make the tackle and prevent the Blues from any potential danger.
As we reached halfway through the first half, there was a scare for Chelsea as Yannick Carrasco went down inside the Chelsea penalty area.
The Belgian winger looked to latch on to a weak back pass from Blues skipper César Azpilcueta, with the Spaniard then accused of pulling the Madrid attacker to the ground. Despite the strong claims, referee Daniele Orsato dismissed the situation.
However, it wasn’t long before Chelsea began to find their feet in the game, passing crisply and creating some opportunities of their own.
A second goal for Tuchel’s Chelsea was vital, and on the 34th minute the Blues found their opener which gave them a two-goal aggregate lead.
The move stemmed for Kai Havertz, as the German juggled the ball forward for the Blues before finding Timo Werner, who had timed a superb run forward. Werner used his pace brilliantly, before then playing a ball across goal to the unmarked Hakim Ziyech – with the Moroccan comfortably converting his attempt beyond Jan Oblak.
Despite the importance of the goal in the fixture, Ziyech’s conversion should also help boost his confidence having struggled in recent weeks. The Blues playmaker had only made his way to the scoresheet on two previous occasions for the club following his arrival from Ajax last summer.
With Madrid’s Renan Lodi on a booking that he had received earlier on in the half, Chelsea was seeing huge joy down the right-hand side. Reece James continued to cause problems, as the Blues looked to extend their lead and cement their place in the last 8.
Overall, it was a difficult first half for Atlético, who struggled to really cause any bother to Chelsea. The Spanish giants had their work cut out in the second half, as the Blues looked to make it 6 consecutive clean sheets.
Just 2 minutes into the second period, Hakim Ziyech was involved for Chelsea as he played a superb pass forward to the emerging run of Timo Werner. The German got his shot away from a relatively tight angle, yet was denied by a strong arm by the Slovenian Oblak.
Shortly after, the Blues saw efforts towards goal by Antonio Rüdiger, Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. Chelsea looked in full control, with Simeone’s side struggling to get a touch of the ball.
With time running out for Atlético, the visitors didn’t see a real chance in the second half until the 75th. Once again, João Félix was involved – forcing Mendy to make a save from an incredibly tight angle.
5 minutes later the Portuguese star was involved again. With quick movement, Félix created enough space to get a shot away, which was blocked by Chelsea’s Azpilicueta. The deflection however was nearly costly for the Blues, as the ball crept just wide off the post with Mendy beaten.
On the brink of being knocked out of the Champions League, tempers were beginning to boil at Stamford Bridge as Stefan Savic was shown a red card for an off the ball elbow on Antonio Rüdiger.
There were later chances for substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi, and the persistent João Félix – but neither player was successful in finding the back of the net.
However, on the 4th minute of additional time – Chelsea doubled their lead through the most unlikely of scorers.
In a counterattack led Christian Pulisic, the American shifted play towards Emerson – who had only been substituted on a moment or so before. The Italian international then did brilliantly to slot the ball past Oblak with a cool conversion – placing the cherry on top of a night to celebrate at Stamford Bridge.
After the whistle:
It’s almost hard to find any flaws in Chelsea’s performances under Tuchel, as the Blues continue to excel under their new manager. The victory against Atlético marks the 13th game unbeaten since the German, the longest unbeaten streak that any new manager as began with at the club.
Following another impressive win, Chelsea is now in a great position to compete with the Champions League and FA Cup – whilst also remaining a strong contender to finish in the top four of the Premier League.
Next up for the Blues is an FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday, as Chelsea hosts an out of form Sheffield United side at Stamford Bridge.
As for Atlético Madrid, the defeat to Chelsea is a symbol of their rough run that they are enduring at the moment. In both legs, the Madrid based club struggled to create chances, and were outplayed in 180 minutes of football.
Looking to get their season back on track to secure an 11th La Liga title, Atlético will host Alavés on Sunday evening.
Chelsea 2-0 Atlético Madrid. (Aggregate: 3-0).
- Ziyech (34’).
- Emerson (90+4’).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta ©, Zouma, Rüdiger; James, Kanté, Kovačić, Alonso (90+3’); Ziyech (77’), Havertz (90+3’); Werner (83’).
- Subs: Pulisic (77’), Hudson-Odoi (83’), Emerson (90+3’), Chilwell (90+4’).
Atlético Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier (69’), Savic, Giménez, Lodi (45’); Llorente, Koke, Saúl, Carrasco (53’); Félix, Suárez (59’).
- Subs: Hermoso (45’), Dembele (53’), Correa (59’), Lemar (69’).
Chelsea (56%) vs Atlético Madrid (44%).
Chelsea (16) vs Atlético Madrid (10).
Shots on target:
Chelsea (5) vs Atlético Madrid (4).
Chelsea (6) vs Atlético Madrid (5).
Chelsea (11) vs Atlético Madrid (11).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | BT Sport).
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).