Olivier Giroud’s overhead kick – awarded by VAR – handed Chelsea a vital 1-0 away win against Atletico Madrid, putting Thomas Tuchel’s men in control of the last-16 tie.
In a predictably-tight encounter, Giroud acrobatically hooked home with 20 minutes left but celebrations were muted as the linesman’s flag was instantly raised. However, the ball had deflected off Mario Hermoso rather than Mason Mount, which was spotted by VAR, and after three minutes of deliberation the goal was awarded.
La Liga leaders Atletico were forced to play their home leg over 3,000 kilometres 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 joining Chelsea but set up his team shrewdly in Bucharest, keeping a lid on Luis Suarez while controlling possession throughout. Atletico didn’t manage a shot on target as Chelsea put themselves in pole position to reach the quarter-finals. Tuchel will be without Mason Mount and Jorginho in the second 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)
Subs: 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)
Subs: Zieych (6), Kante (7), Havertz (6)
Man of the match: Olivier Giroud
Tuchel getting tune out of Chelsea…
Callum Hudson-Odoi – singled out by his manager in the draw with Southampton – was a surprise starter on the right for Tuchel in a cagey opening to the game.
There was a booking inside 60 seconds for Mount for a foul on Joao Felix, meaning he will be suspended for the second leg at Stamford Bridge next month.
Then Edouard Mendy almost contrived to pile more misery on the visitors after a heavy touch in the penalty area but Saul was unable to make the most of the goalkeeper’s mistake.
The Premier League side then started to dominate possession and a long-range effort from Marcos Alonso represented the first shot on target from either side.
There were signs that Atleti were set to be more adventurous in the second half as Suarez saw an effort deflected wide and Felix fired an overhead kick off target.
Although Chelsea were wasteful in the final third, Tuchel’s side controlled the ball in shrewd fashion and all that was missing was a final finish.
That changed with 20 minutes remaining.
Alonso got forward well and his cross was deflected into the path of Giroud, who produced a superb overhead kick from 12 yards that found the bottom corner.
It was immediately ruled out for offside, with Mount deemed to have knocked the ball forward for his team-mate, but after a lengthy VAR review it was adjudged Atletico centre-back Hermoso had got the decisive final touch.
A crucial away goal that leaves Chelsea in a fantastic position to reach the last eight.
Man of the match: Olivier Giroud
This was another subtle reminder from the French striker that he can be a dangerous option for Chelsea still in big games. For the majority of the evening, Chelsea struggled to find a final killer pass into their frontmen but that didn’t deter Giroud, who was always sniffing out a chance, always looking for a half a yard to take advantage of. His moment came with 20 minutes remaining and he took it in typical classy fashion, with a little help of course from VAR. At 34-years-old, he remains at the top of his game.
“If you see him on a daily basis you cannot be surprised,” Tuchel said.
“He is totally fit, his body is in shape, his physicality is on a top level and mentally I have the feeling he enjoys every day. This is the level he needs to be.
“He trains like a 20-year-old, he is a guy who is serious and a mix of joy.”
- Tuchel became the third Chelsea manager to win his first Champions League game in charge when the game took place 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’d failed to register a shot on target in a UEFA Champions League game since March 2019 versus Juventus.
- Giroud has scored six Champions League goals this season, his best return in a single campaign in the competition.
- Mason Mount’s yellow card after 55 seconds was the quickest card shown in the UEFA Champions League this season.
- Tuchel (Chelsea and PSG) became only the second manager in the history of the UEFA Champions League to manage two different clubs within a single season after Ronald Koeman in 2007/08 (PSV and Valencia).