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Champions League
11 min read

Chelsea Cruise Past Atletico Madrid in Convincing 2-0 Victory

Already possessing a crucial 1-0 advantage over Diego Simeone’s side from the previous leg, Chelsea were in the ascendancy from the off. 

Under the reinventive tuition of Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea’s glittering run of fortunes continued as they waltzed through to the Champions League Quarter Finals.

Summer signing Hakim Ziyech fired his side into the lead shortly after the half hour mark with an emphatic finish from a blitzing break.

And then, to put the icing on the cake on a prodigious performance under the floodlights,  substitute Emerson Palmeri assuringly rifled the ball home in the 94th minute merely a minute after coming on. 

The West Londoners wasted little time in coming out of the blocks. Almost instantly, they deployed a high, positive tempo to immediately put the Spaniards on the back foot.

You could sense that the hosts were always two steps ahead of their counterparts. Time and time again, the Blues would incisively unearth space in what is, typically, a water-tight Atletico backline.

N’golo Kante was the embodiment of this as he exploded into space on the 8th minute and looked set to capitalise on a sense of complacency, though he miscontrolled the ball and it went away for a goal kick.

Chelsea generally set the pace of the encounter and rarely dissipated from their stride. Particularly in the game’s dawn, they thoroughly dominated the lion’s share of possession, knocking the ball around with a gripping precision. 

However, in the 25th minute, Atletico had every right to feel unjust. 

Carrasco, who netted in the 2017 Champions League Final, appeared to have been pulled down in Chelsea’s box by Azpilicueta, but referee Daniele Orsato promptly dismissed the plentiful outcry of claims. 

Just under ten minutes later, Chelsea’s forward fluidity came to full fruition. 

Following a quick break, Timo Werner marauded down the flank before fizzing an inviting ball into the area. Hakim Ziyech was first to react and, in riproaring fashion, registered his third goal in buoyant blue colours. 

Over the course of the clash, Chelsea’s free-flowing, fearsome front three was firmly at the centrepiece of their captivating attacking moves. 

With Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech playing behind Timo Werner, the trio combined to wreak havoc, displaying a newly adopted ambience of confidence as they linked up devastatingly and made dangerous darting runs behind the last line of defence all evening. 

But behind them, their omnipotent offensive output was maximised by a magnificent core in the middle of the park. 

Marrying Kante’s relentless energy with Kovacic’s driving runs and press resistance, Chelsea’s midfield provided the foundations, whereas wing backs Reece James and Marcos Alonso also joined up with the attack.

After the break, Atletico made a bold tactical switch as they switched to a three at the back, though it did not aid their quest for a comeback.

Particularly, Chelsea’s awe-consuming forward line picked up where they had left off and early on into the second half, Werner and Ziyech both called Oblak into action with testing efforts.

For all their attacking endeavour, Chelsea did a sterling job at the other end of the pitch, too.

Throughout the affair, an organised, tight-knit Blues backline barely afforded Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez a sniff at goal and as a result, the ex-Barcelona star was hauled off after 58 minutes. 

However, Joao Felix was somewhat of a thorn in the side for Chelsea. 

A jinky, crafty attacker renowned for his quick feet and ability to drift into pockets of space, Felix utilised these qualities to optimum and asked several questions of Tuchel’s high-riding comrades.

In fact, had it not been for the imperative influence of Kante, it could have been a totally different tale at the Bridge as one more than one occasion, the Frenchman crucially intervened for Felix’s goal-bound drives.

Chelsea midfielder Ngolo Kante and Joao Felix of Atletico
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 17: Ngolo Kante of Chelsea and Joao Felix of Atletico Madrid battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on March 17, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Observing the colossal differences between Chelsea and Atletico really painted a scintillating picture within; it inspired imagination of simply how effective Felix would have been in Tuchel’s dynamic, enrapturing system, and you really feel he did not deserve to be on the losing side. 

As the clash approached its twilight, it became apparent that Chelsea were simply letting Atletico play into their hands. The Madrid side managed to soak up more of the ball later on, though it did not translate to a shift in the balance overall. 

Soon, disaster struck and it went from bad to worse for the visitors.

As Chelsea defended an opposing corner, Stefan Savic was adjudged to have elbowed Rudiger in the chest and promptly received his marching orders.

Although many held the belief that the bulky German made the most out of it, it is still violent conduct and, it was a moment of madness that really re-invited Chelsea’s perilous pressure.

Consequently, Chelsea used their numerical superiority to push up and truly put Simeone’s men under the cosh.

Upon his late inauguration to proceedings, Hudson-Odoi displayed infectious liveliness and was a key component of Chelsea’s ferocious counter attacks, laying the ball onto Kovacic and nearly converting an effort himself.

But it was the unlikely figure of Emerson who would strike gold right before the conclusion of the evening, dispatching a powerful effort into the bottom right corner following- you guessed it, a quick break.

Emerson of Chelsea and Ben Chilwell
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 17: Emerson Palmieri of Chelsea celebrates with Ben Chilwell after scoring their team’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between Chelsea FC and Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge on March 17, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Ultimately, that marked the end of the match and the two camps will have been embracing contrastingly different emotions in the aftermath.

All of a sudden, Chelsea are reformed. They are rejuvenated, rekindled and look a side no team would fancy sharing a pitch with. 

Thomas Tuchel will be hoping that the masterly combination of Ziyech, Werner and Havertz- all of whom were hallmarked as marquee summer signings- can continue to bedazzle. 

It has been a rigid ride thus far for the trio, though if they can emulate their electric performances from Tuesday evening’s on a consistent basis, Chelsea’s attack boasts a deadly dynamic capable of pushing any side to the limit.

And with the absence of a title charge, they could really go far in this year’s Champions League. 

Atletico, on the other hand, need to dust themselves down and put all their eggs in the basket for defending their four point lead at the summit of the La Liga standings. 

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Main Image Credits- Embed from Getty Images

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