Olivier Giroud’s kick – awarded by VAR – gave Chelsea a vital 1-0 away win over Atletico Madrid, putting Thomas Tuchel’s men in control of the final draw.
In a close encounter as one would expect, Giroud hung acrobatically at home with 20 minutes left, but the celebrations were muffled when the linesman’s flag was instantly hoisted. However, the ball deflected Mario Hermoso rather than Mason Mount, spotted by VAR, and after three minutes of deliberation the goal was awarded.
La Liga leaders Atletico have been forced to play their home game more than 3,000 kilometers from Madrid due to Spanish restrictions on arrivals from Britain to control the spread of COVID-19 infections.
Thomas Tuchel was facing his toughest test since arriving at Chelsea, but set up his squad artfully in Bucharest, keeping a cover on Luis Suarez while controlling possession throughout. Atletico failed a shot on target as Chelsea shifted to pole position to reach the quarter-finals. Tuchel will be without Mason Mount and Jorginho in the return leg at Stamford Bridge on March 17 as they will be suspended after being booked.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak (6), Llorente (6), Savic (6), Felipe (6), Hermoso (6), Saul (6), Koke (6), Lemar (6), Correa (6), Joao Félix (7) , Suárez (6)
Submarines: Torreria (6), Lodi (6), Dembele (6)
Chelsea: Mendy (7), Rudiger (7), Christensen (7), Azpilicueta (8), Alonso (7), Hudson-Odoi (8), Jorginho (7), Werner (6), Kovacic (7), Mount (7 )), Giroud (7)
Submarines: Zieych (6), Kante (7), Havertz (6)
Man of the match: Olivier Giroud
Tuchel loses interest in Chelsea …
Callum Hudson-Odoi – singled out for his coach in the draw with Southampton – was a surprise starter on the right for Tuchel in a cautious opening of the game.
There was a 60-second reservation for Mount for a foul on Joao Felix, which means he will be suspended for the return leg at Stamford Bridge next month.
Then Edouard Mendy almost managed to pile more misery on the visitors after a heavy touchdown in the penalty area but Saul couldn’t make the most of the goalkeeper’s mistake.
The Premier League side then began to dominate possession and a long-range effort from Marcos Alonso represented the first shot on target from either side.
There were signs Atleti was set to be more adventurous in the second half as Suarez saw a deflected effort and Felix shot a kickoff target above.
Although Chelsea wasted in the final third, Tuchel’s side astutely controlled the ball and all that was missing was a final finish.
That changed with 20 minutes remaining.
Alonso advanced well and his cross was deflected into Giroud’s path, who produced a superb 12-yard kick that found the bottom corner.
He was immediately ruled out for offside with Mount deemed to have kicked the ball forward for his teammate, but after a lengthy VAR review it was ruled that Atletico center-back Hermoso had secured the finishing touch. decisive.
A crucial away goal that leaves Chelsea in a fantastic position to reach the last eight.
Man of the match: Olivier Giroud
It was another subtle reminder from the French striker that he can be a dangerous option for Chelsea again in big games. For most of the evening, Chelsea struggled to find a final killer pass to their frontmen, but that didn’t deter Giroud, who was still sniffing out a chance, still looking for a half a meter to enjoy it. His time came with 20 minutes remaining and he took it in a typically classy way, with a little help of course from VAR. At 34, he remains at his peak.
“If you see it daily you can’t be surprised,” Tuchel said.
“He’s totally in good shape, his body is in good shape, his physicality is at the highest level and mentally I have the feeling that he loves every day.
“He trains like a 20 year old, he’s a serious guy and a mixture of joy.”
- Tuchel became the third Chelsea coach to win their first Champions League game when the game was in the knockout stage after Roberto Di Matteo and Guus Hiddink.
- Atletico Madrid failed to land a single shot on target against Chelsea – the first time they had failed to register a shot on target in a UEFA Champions League game since March 2019 against Juventus.
- Giroud has scored six Champions League goals this season, his best comeback in a single campaign in the competition.
- Mason Mount’s yellow card after 55 seconds was the fastest card presented in the UEFA Champions League this season.
- Tuchel (Chelsea and PSG) became just the second coach in UEFA Champions League history to manage two different clubs in a single season after Ronald Koeman in 2007/08 (PSV and Valencia).