Chelsea easily put Atletico Madrid away in the second leg of its Champions League Round of 16 tie with a 2-0 home win. The Blues won the tie 3-0, but it was nervy nonetheless. Here are some key moments from the English side’s biggest win of the season:
1. Timo Werner’s tackle before the first goal
Throughout the two legs, there was one startling difference between Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, and that was the lack of intent and energy. In the first leg, the Blues were always ready to pounce on a mistake from Atletico’s back line and continued to press even after scoring that goal. In contrast, Atletico Madrid chose to sit back with five or six players in the back line at times. Despite having an away goal lead in the second leg, Chelsea always looked positive on the ball. The Blues were counter-pressing energetically and closing down the space available to every player.
The moment that genuinely showed Chelsea’s intent and spirit was when Timo Werner committed to a slide tackle in his half to win the ball back. Then, he sprinted upfield to assist Ziyech for the goal with his weaker foot. The tackle showed that Tuchel’s side is a hard-working team with intent. It is a squad that works hard on and off the ball and keeps fighting. While Atletico’s player showed frustration regularly, the Blues went about their business and kept working to ensure the result.
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2. Edouard Mendy’s save in the dying moments
Chelsea’s defence has been unbreachable since the arrival of Tuchel. The Blues have only conceded two goals in 13 games under the new manager. The three-at-the-back system has worked wonders for Chelsea as it is highly disciplined and organised. The back line is a nightmare for any forward, just ask Luis Suarez—he might have a thing or two to share.
There were moments when Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger shielded the ball from Atletico’s forwards, huffing and puffing till the goal line. It was truly spectacular to see how Chelsea’s defence stepped up as Atletico attempted to attack its box. The moment that summed up the Blues’ defensive performance came in the dying moments of the game. Joao Felix got the ball at the edge of the box as Cesar Azpilicueta failed to clear the ball. He skipped past one man and took a shot at Mendy. The Senegalese shot stopper stood his ground and guided the ball above the goal. This moment truly represented the defensive performance of Chelsea. When one faltered, the others stepped up. Every defender was brilliant at some point or another!
3. Red card summed up Atletico’s game
Atletico was struggling throughout the game, and Los Rojoblancos failed to find any rhythm. While Simeone is known for his unique system, Chelsea outplayed and outclassed his side as the visitors couldn’t press and protect their goal at the same time. One incident in the 81′ was quite baffling and was probably the best summation of Atletico’s outing at Stamford Bridge.
Stefan Savic knowingly elbowed Antonio Rudiger in his chest, and it was rightly spotted by the referee, who sent the defender off. Savic was frustrated and he continued to argue with the referee even after seeing the red card.
Atletico was whining throughout the match rather than concentrating on finding a way through Chelsea’s defence. Suarez was constantly animated and even ended up on the ground after a challenge from Rudiger. Similarly, Yannick Carrasco went down in the box as Azpilicueta brushed his jersey. The red card was the final nail in the coffin as it killed the fixture for the visitors and summed up their frustrating night.
4. N’Golo Kante’s dummy run in the 94′ for Emerson’s goal
N’Golo Kante reminded the world that he is still one of the best midfielders in the world. He was everywhere on the pitch and ended up with a couple of Atletico midfielders in his pockets. The Frenchman intercepted several brewing attacks and converted them into counter-attacks. There was a time when fans—and a certain Italian manager—used to disregard Kante’s attacking contributions due to his lack of technical ability. Last night, Kante completed four dribbles, more than all three forwards.
Kante was one of Chelsea’s most dynamic players as he was on the ball constantly initiating attacks. While he was at the top of his game for over 90 minutes, one of the most exciting moments came in the 94′. Christian Pulisic was running with the ball towards Jan Oblak’s goal, with Emerson running to his left, and Kante was in a deeper position. Still, Kante ran the entire length of the pitch to provide a dummy run to pull a defender out of position, and the Blues ended up scoring. With Kante, Chelsea genuinely has an extra man on the pitch, and his mentality just makes his game even better.
What moments did you think were key in this match? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!