Chelsea will take a 1-0 lead in the Champions League’s last 16 home game with Atletico Madrid after Olivier Giroud’s aerial kick earned them a narrow victory in the opening meeting.
After dominating much of the game, the pressure from Chelsea was finally revealed just over 20 minutes to go when Giroud reacted to the failed permission to score impressively.
This puts the Blues in a good position ahead of the reverse game, which is set to take place at Stamford Bridge despite Atletico being forced to relinquish their home advantage, tonight’s game played in Romania.
Chelsea controlled the first half, taking a 71% share of possession and having five goal attempts compared to Atletico’s.
But that was not reflected on the score line, with the teams going scoreless at the break.
Timo Werner had two chances, but he didn’t bother Jan Oblak. First, he was unable to return Mason Mount’s inviting cross from the right, then he fired a forehand at the imposing goalkeeper after finding space in the box.
Thomas Lemar and Luis Suarez had half chances for the Spaniards, whose game plan was clearly to counterattack, but neither were able to direct their efforts towards goal.
The game picked up on the same pace early in the second half, with Chelsea seeing plenty of the ball and looking to create.
Mount was heavily involved, seeing a low shot blocked in the 50e minute before putting Werner far to the left after a good job in midfield soon after, but the German’s delivery to midfield was interrupted by the defense.
Atletico have typically remained strong at the back and the Blues were even more frustrated when Jorginho landed a reservation which excluded him from the second leg. He joins Mount, who had been booked earlier in the contest, by being suspended.
But Thomas Tuchel’s men finally made a deserved breakthrough in the 67e minute thanks to a spectacular aerial kick from Giroud.
After the ball ricocheted off Mario Hermoso and through the air, Giroud quickly adjusted before finding the lower left corner with acrobatic effort.
His celebrations were initially cut short after the linesman ruled he was offside, but a lengthy VAR review ruled otherwise and the Frenchman got his goal.
La Liga leaders offered little response, failing to register a shot on goal all evening.
In fact, it was Chelsea who came closest to finding the second goal of the game when Werner ran, but he found the side net.
But the Premier League side were able to comfortably see the game and gain the upper hand in the tie with a far-from-home manuel performance in European competition.