Atletico Madrid 1-0 Chelsea: Match statistics
Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final first leg on Tuesday night in Bucharest confirms Londoners were right to sack Frank Lampard as manager and replace him with Thomas Tuchel.
The Blues have been transformed into a solid, well-trained unit in less than a month, and they have passed their toughest test yet, beating and overtaking Spanish league leaders Diego Simeone.
As Tuchel said BT Sport after, “We never let them breathe. We never gave them a chance to counterattack.”
There’s still a second leg to come, of course, but Olivier Giroud’s superb kick put Chelsea in a great position to reach the quarter-finals.
The French striker’s departure was a surprise, given the 34-year-old had been ruled out of four of Tuchel’s previous eight formations, but Giroud has once again proven himself a man for the big occasion.
Indeed, Giroud had also been Lampard’s man of choice in the Champions League this season, having scored a crucial winner in Rennes on Matchday 3 before scoring four in an incredible rout from Seville to clinch the first. place of group E.
The former Arsenal striker’s goal in Romania also means he now has 18 in Europe for Chelsea, which puts him behind only Blues legends Didier Drogba and Lampard on the club’s list of all-time top scorers. times in continental competition.
However, while Giroud will naturally dominate the headlines for his acrobatic winner, Tuchel deserves most of the credit for this victory – and not just for the selection of the France international.
Since taking office, the German coach has done an excellent job sorting through the Blues’ back line, as highlighted by the fact that Atleti failed to register a single shot on target in Bucharest.
Tuchel’s decision to move up to a 3-4-1-2 lineup proved to be essential and even Rojiblancos boss Simeone was already full of praise for the impact his Chelsea counterpart had in so little. time at Stamford Bridge.
“They have invested a lot in young players and, after seeing that the investment has not paid off, they called on Tuchel,” the Argentine told reporters at the Arena Nationala. “Since he arrived they have had a good change in their numbers.”
Tuchel also deserves credit for the courageous decision to drop N’Golo Kante and trust Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in the midfield. However, Tuchel’s early reliance on Mason Mount shows he doesn’t just fire the players from the previous manager to prove a point.
Even when Tuchel seems to have made a mistake, it works in the end. Callum Hudson-Odoi was visibly upset that he was substituted just 31 minutes after his last weekend draw at Southampton, but the youngster delivered a wonderfully mature performance at the back against Atletico.
Tuchel, it seems, can hurt now. The players are certainly happy with the fact that they all have a chance to impress, while the board must be immensely pleased that the new manager has propelled Chelsea back into contention for a top-four spot and now has them put a positive result. far from the last eight in the Champions League.
And what’s remarkable is that all of this was done while trying to restore the confidence of potential superstars like Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, and Hakim Ziyech.
Getting them fired is of course imperative, as the next few weeks will be huge for Chelsea, who face Manchester United and Liverpool to enter the league before facing Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Chelsea still have high expectations after investing £ 220m ($ 275m) this summer and they want an eventful season to end in success.
They may well get their wish, however, as Tuesday’s fully deserved victory over Atleti underscored. Giroud’s finish was spectacular, but Chelsea’s Tuchel-inspired solidity was even more impressive – and much more significant.