Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid hosted Premier League champions Chelsea on in week two of the Champions League group stage. Both teams are looking to progress from Group C and the Spanish side needed a positive result after a 0-0 draw away at Roma in week one.
It was Antonio Conte’s men who came out on top in this game however, playing Atleti at their own game. The Blues were fully deserving of their win – the first ever by an English team away to Atletico Madrid.
A cagey start to a defensive game
The game would provide an interesting tactical battle between Simeone’s 4-4-2 formation and the flexible 3-5-2/5-3-2 of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, and it was the visitors who had the first few chances of the game. Alvaro Morata dragged two early shots wide of the post, and the former Real Madrid man’s efforts were met with a chorus of boos from the Atleti fans. Eden Hazard seemed to be playing in a free role as a second striker just off Morata, and the tricky Belgian was involved in much of Chelsea’s early attacking play.
Unsurprisingly Chelsea’s best chance of the first 20 minutes came from Hazard. The Chelsea star struck a shot from 25-yards out that took a wicked deflection, wrong-footing Jan Oblak in the Atleti goal but cannoning back out off the post. Another Chelsea chance went begging when Morata’s header was tipped over the bar by Oblak following a brilliant lofted pass by David Luiz. In truth there were few clear-cut opportunities in the first 25 minutes and the game was every bit the defensive tactical battle that it was expected to be before kick-off.
Atleti take an undeserved lead
Chelsea looked the more adventurous side and Atleti looked tentative going forward, perhaps fearing a Chelsea counterattack. The Rojiblancos did look well organised defensively however, snuffing out every Chelsea attack with relative ease, but Chelsea also pressed the ball efficiently and Atleti struggled to get out of their own half in the first 35 minutes.
The home side did grow into the game however and were awarded a controversial penalty as David Luiz pulled Lucas Hernandez to the floor at a corner. It was Antoine Griezmann who stepped up and blasted the penalty straight down the middle to give Atleti the lead at the Wanda Metropolitano. After this setback Chelsea pushed for an equaliser before half time but the resolute Atletico defence held firm. Simeone’s side really should have had a second as Saúl dragged a glorious opportunity wide with the last kick of the half after Courtois spilled a speculative shot from Angel Correa.
Morata and Hazard show their class
Chelsea came out for the second half facing the tough task of playing from behind against an Atletico Madrid side that specialises in defending narrow leads. The home side would look to find more opportunities to counter having taken the lead in the first half, and Saúl had the first chance of the half but his header flew just wide. Atleti dropped deep whenever Chelsea were in possession and their rigidity reduced the visitors to long range efforts in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
The Blues must have known it would take a moment of class to break down the Atletico defence and it was Morata who provided it. Hazard curled in a tantalising cross and the Spanish striker connected with a deft header that nestled perfectly into the bottom corner. The visitors had a brilliant chance to take an unlikely lead just moments later but Cesc Fabregas somehow scuffed his shot wide of the post from five yards out.
The unlikeliest of wins
Atletico responded well after Chelsea’s resurgence, remaining disciplined while also looking for a goal to regain the lead, and Fernando Torres was introduced to aid this cause. The home side switched to a 4-1-4-1 formation with Torres’ introduction, but their adventurousness allowed Chelsea to counter. Morata should have grabbed a second when he went one-on-one with Oblak, but the striker couldn’t quite bend the ball into the far corner. The Rojiblancos continued to push for a winner but this time it was Chelsea’s turn to impress defensively as the game’s tempo slowed.
The 82nd minute saw the withdrawal of both Hazard and Morata, and it seemed as if Conte had accepted the draw and was looking ahead to Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Manchester City at the weekend. However the players had other ideas and in added time Batshuayi, who had come on as a substitute for Morata, turned in a Marcos Alonso cross to give the Blues an unlikely win. It was to be the last kick of the game, and Chelsea became the first English team ever to win away at Atletico Madrid.
Simeone’s men would have been confident that they could hang onto their lead going into half time, but in the end the Rojiblancos were beaten at their own game by a tremendous Chelsea side. With this result the Spanish side now sit third in Group C, though they are yet to play the groups whipping boys Qarabag. Atleti can beat any team in knockout football, but they will need some big performances in the coming games to ensure qualification.
To win away at Atletico Madrid is no mean feat and Chelsea certainly deserved their victory on the balance of play. The sensational result puts the Blues top of Group C and in a commanding position in their question for qualification to the knockout stages. With Eden Hazard back and looking sharp Chelsea could go far in this competition with which they have such a love affair.
Atletico Madrid: Oblak; Juanfran, Godín, Lucas, Luis; Carrasco (Torres, 69’), Saúl, Thomas (Giménez, 77’), Koke; Griezmann, Correa (Gaitan, 70’)
Chelsea: Courtois; Apzilicueta, Cahill, Luiz; Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas (Christensen, 86’), Alonso; Hazard (Willian, 82’), Morata (Batshuayi, 82’)
Goals: Griezmann (1-0, 40’), Morata (1-1, 60’), Batshuayi (1-2, 90+4)
Referee: Cüneyt Çakir
Yellow Cards: Luiz (40’), Thomas (47’), Griezmann (54’)
Red Cards: None
Atletico Madrid: Oblak 6; Juanfran 6, Godín 6, Lucas 7, Luis 6; Carrasco 5 (Torres 6), Saúl 6, Thomas 6 (Gimenez 6), Koke 6; Griezmann 6, Correa 5 (Gaitan 5)
Chelsea: Courtois 7; Apzilicueta 7, Cahill 8, Luiz 7; Moses 7, Kante 8, Bakayoko 8, Fabregas 7 (Christensen 6), Alonso 8; Hazard 9 (Willian 6), Morata 9 (Batshuayi 8)
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