Dominance at it best. While a defense minded Atletico Madrid were busy with defensive duties, Chelsea were able to play; outrageously dictating proceedings all through the nineties with Athletico having not even a chance to record a shot on goal. Their dominance would later be rewarded as Olivier Giroud with the help of VAR, gave them a slender advantage to take back to Stamford Bridge with a spectacular acrobatic strike.
Chelsea were solid at the back after recovering quickly from a series of sluggish display from the defense at the introductory phase. The kovacic-Jourginho pairing in the midfield played to expectation as they commanded the central area with maturity, precision and confidence. Albeit it was an herculean task for the Blues attack to pierce Athleti at the back, but when their first clear sight on goal arrived, Olivier Giroud was right on spot to bury it in style.
Athletico Madrid, who had to host Chelsea in Bucharest, Romania due to the heat of coronavirus in Spain were reticent in display as Chelsea were by far the progressive side. Tuesday night wasn’t the skillful João Felix’s day and Christensen — who replaced Thiago Silva in the central defense outshone the prolific Luiz Suarez, restraining the forward to limited opportunities.
Athletico Madrid barely created anything and their frustration was epitomized by Suarez attitude of constantly crafting silly complaints to the official Felix Brych. The Portuguese Felix, though not his night, will earn the credit for troubling Chelsea the most. Jourginho and Mason Mount were booked for fouling the young forward, who threatened with an overhead kick in the second half and was the only Simeone’s player who wanted to run with the ball, doing so in the first minute only to be halted by Mason Mount.
Chelsea walked slowly into the game, leaving room for Athletico to create something. A miscommunication between Rüdiger and Marcos Alonso allowed Suarez to capitalise on the two players indecision, stealing the ball and squaring it for Thomas Lamar who guided the ball to the far post. Soon after, Edouard Mendy almost gifted Saul Niguez a goal after dithering with a back pass but luckily got away with it.
But Chelsea responded positively. They found their wit shortly afterwards and outplayed the La Liga leaders with superior football play. Though creating chances were difficult with Athletico in organized shape, defended at the back with 6 players. Surging forward, there seem to be a white and red shirt at every angle and the Blues were rather left to operate outside the box. Still they kept probing with the impressive Mount and Hudson-Odoi combining on the left to open up Athleti at the back on three occasions and Timo Werner, at the right edge of the box darted into space to test Jan Oblak with a powerful shot.
Until the 67th minute before the opening and only goal of the game arrived. A cross from the left came into Athletico Madrid danger area. The ball hanging in the air and Mount battling to claim it with Mario Hermozo, who diverted it to Giroud. The striker came up with a moment of magic, using his left foot to beat Oblak with a powerful overhead kick.
“I didn’t know what to think about the goal, I just focussed on hitting the overhead kick and was pleased to see it go in the back of the net, I had no clue about being offside,” Giroud said after the match.
It was all three points for Chelsea at final whistle. A crucial advantage to take into the return leg on March 17th with the absence of Mason Mount and Jourginho due to suspension and a big blow to Simeone’s unambitious Athletico Madrid.