In the long run it got here all the way down to Chelsea’s ambition. Whereas Atletico Madrid have been held again by Diego Simeone’s negativity, Thomas Tuchel informed his crew to play. Liberated, Chelsea stood as much as be counted. They let their soccer do the speaking as an alternative of rising to Luis Suárez’s provocation, incomes their reward when Olivier Giroud gave them a slender benefit to take again to Stamford Bridge with a particular purpose.
Tuchel might have fun an ideal away show in Bucharest, the place the tie was performed resulting from Covid-19 restrictions. Chelsea, who’ve a beautiful probability to progress past the final 16 for the primary time since 2016, have been way more progressive than Atlético. It was an entire efficiency and the one disappointment is that Jorginho and the excellent Mason Mount will likely be suspended for the second leg on 17 March.
It quickly grew to become clear that Chelsea wanted to have their wits about them. Tuchel knew what to anticipate from Atlético, speaking about their struggle and expertise earlier than the sport, and it was not lengthy earlier than he was marching to the sting of his technical space to induce his gamers to settle down. The primary warning signal got here within the opening minute, Mount incomes a yellow card for chopping down João Felix because the ahead threatened to cost via a large open house in midfield, whereas there was a skittish air to Chelsea on the again, typified by Édouard Mendy virtually gifting Saúl Ñiguez a calamitous purpose when he dithered with a again cross.
Chelsea’s goalkeeper nearly bought away it, respiration a sigh of reduction because the ball rolled away from Saúl, however the errors stored coming. Tuchel reduce a fearful determine on the touchline. Chelsea have been with out Thiago Silva in central defence, depriving them of important nous and high quality, and there was one other probability for Atlético when Antonio Rüdiger and Marcos Alonso left a bouncing ball to one another deep on the precise, permitting Suárez to steal possession earlier than crossing for Thomas Lemar to poke extensive on the far put up.
It was a reminder that Chelsea couldn’t afford to chill out with Suárez round. Because the opening interval wore on, although, the guests started to regulate the sport. Callum Hudson-Odoi, given an opportunity to redeem himself after he was subbed on and off towards Southampton final weekend, was eager to impress. The 20-year-old was diligent together with his defensive duties at proper wing-back, monitoring again to take care of Lemar, and he was vibrant with the ball, pushing excessive and troubling Atlético by combining with Mount.
Though there was one other scare simply earlier than half-time, Ángel Correa and Suárez threatening on the break, Chelsea have been feeling higher. Atlético fell into containment mode, defending with a again six at occasions. The issue for Chelsea, who ended the primary half with 71% possession, was discovering a well beyond certainly one of Europe’s stingiest groups. They spent lots of time enjoying in entrance of Atlético, passing the ball backward and forward as they looked for a gap, with the one second of incision coming when Timo Werner darted in from the left, turning brilliantly earlier than testing Jan Oblak at his close to put up.
As soon as once more Tuchel discovered himself craving extra precision within the last third. Repeatedly Chelsea discovered themselves operating down useless ends as Atlético compressed the house. There all the time appeared to be a pink and white shirt in the way in which. Atlético, so troublesome to interrupt down regardless of the absence of José María Giménez, didn’t care about leisure. They have been ready to sit down again and await alternatives on the break, with their strategy summed up by Simeone incomes a reserving for complaining an excessive amount of halfway via the second half.
It was Felix who carried the menace within the second half for Atlético, acrobatically volleying over earlier than injecting some urgency with a surge down the left. Jorginho introduced the teen down, incomes a reserving, and can sit out the second leg.
But there have been few alternatives for Felix to showcase his dazzling expertise. Atlético continued to stifle, defending the field and irritating Chelsea, who wanted to extend the tempo. Giroud, who was most popular to Tammy Abraham up entrance, was struggling to flee his markers and Werner was crowded out when Mount launched him at the beginning of the second half.
Chelsea had nothing to concern, although, and Mount refused to cease probing. Within the 67th minute a cross got here into the Atletico space from the left. The ball looped up into the air, Mount difficult Mario Hermoso, who inadvertently diverted it to Giroud, who produced a second of genius, utilizing his left foot to beat Oblak with a shocking overhead kick.
Though the flag went up for offside towards Giroud, a prolonged VAR evaluate confirmed the ultimate contact got here off Hermoso. Chelsea have been rewarded for his or her persistence. Atletico have been punished for his or her lack of ambition.