Chelsea progressed to the Champions League quarter-finals, beating Atletico Madrid 2-0 on Wednesday to complete a 3-0 aggregate win in the last-16 second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Olivier Giroud’s spectacular overhead kick separated the sides in Bucharest three weeks ago, giving Chelsea a valuable one-goal advantage that was added to by Hakim Ziyech (34) during the opening half.
The Blues extended their record of never having been eliminated from a European knockout tie after winning the first leg away from home to 14 occasions and frustration got the better of Atletico in the closing stages.
Stefan Savic was dismissed for violent conduct (81) after elbowing Antonio Rudiger as Emerson Palmieri came off the bench in stoppage time and scored with his very first touch to complete a professional job by the hosts.
It is the first time Chelsea have reached the Champions League last eight in seven years and they are yet to lose in 13 matches under Thomas Tuchel in all competitions, making this now the longest unbeaten start to a tenure by any manager in the club’s history, overtaking Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 12 games in 2008.
Chelsea: Mendy (7), Azpilicueta (7), Zouma (7), Rudiger (7), James (7), Kovacic (7), Kante (8), Alonso (6), Ziyech (8), Havertz (7), Werner (7).
Subs: Pulisic (n/a), Hudson-Odoi (n/a), Chilwell (n/a), Emerson (n/a).
Atletico Madrid: Oblak (6), Trippier (6), Savic (5), Gimenez (6), Renan Lodi (5), Llorente (6), Koke (6), Saul (6), Carrasco (6), Joao Felix (6), Suarez (5).
Subs: Correa (6), Lemar (6), Dembele (6), Hermoso (5).
Man of the match: N’Golo Kante.
It was only the third time that N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic were paired in the Chelsea midfield under Tuchel, more through necessity perhaps than design given the suspension of Jorginho, but Kante took his chance in his preferred role, protecting Chelsea’s back three.
Atletico were given no chance to build pressure on Mendy’s goal thanks to Kante’s vital contributions, making two interceptions and gaining possession on 13 occasions, more than any other Chelsea player.
Even in the fourth minute of stoppage time as Pulisic played Emerson in for the second, Kante was up in support, rolling back the years. He turns 30 this month, but Tuchel only sees his quality.
“I never know the age of my players, I judge them only by their performance,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to be the coach of him and it’s a big gift for me. He’s so humble and such a help around the pitch. Don’t underestimate his ability to run with quality and play under pressure. He alongside Mateo, they took all the weight on their shoulders and did a fantastic job.”
Chelsea prove too strong for Simeone
Atletico failed to manage a single shot on target in the first leg, but it took them less than four minutes to test Edouard Mendy for the first time on Wednesday, but Renan Lodi’s effort was comfortably gathered.
Chelsea did a good job of nullifying their opponents but were fortunate not to concede a penalty after 23 minutes.
Cesar Azpilicueta intercepted Luis Suarez’s through ball but his backpass to Mendy was under-cooked as the Blues captain subsequently appeared to impede Yannick Carrasco inside the box with an outstretched arm.
Referee Daniele Orsato was unmoved despite the vocal protests while the incident was not referred to VAR Massimiliano Irrati. Chelsea took full advantage of the reprieve 11 minutes later to stretch their lead through Ziyech.
The Morocco forward converted from Timo Werner’s cross, after the Germany star had grafted hard to launch the attack in the first place.
Werner sprinted wide to block Kieran Trippier’s attempted cross after a free-kick, with Kai Havertz latching onto the loose ball and sending it back into Werner’s path.
The former RB Leipzig hitman raced away and kept his cool to feed Ziyech at the far post, who slotted home for his first goal in 20 matches for Chelsea.
Diego Simeone wasted no time in seeking solutions at the interval, hauling off the hapless Lodi, but his replacement Mario Hermoso fared no better against the marauding Reece James. Chelsea had their opponents at arm’s length, defending from the front as Ziyech took James’ pass and saw a curling shot tipped over by Jan Oblak.
Suarez had cut an isolated figure, kept at bay by Rudiger as he was hooked on the hour-mark and replaced by Angel Correa – Simeone’s third change – but it failed to swing the momentum in Atletico’s favour. There were now spaces for Chelsea to exploit on the counter as Werner raced down the left and had Havertz in support but he went solo, firing wide of the angle of post and crossbar.
It wasn’t until the 76th minute that Mendy was drawn into action in the second half as Marcos Llorente found Joao Felix but the shot was parried out, with the impressive N’Golo Kante there to sweep the clearance to safety.
Chelsea managed the clock, but Atletico won a corner as another Felix shot deflected over. Savic went forward from defence and stood on Rudiger. An elbow to the ribs of the German centre-back in sight of referee Orsato brought an immediate red and with it went Atletico’s chances of progressing.
Tuchel looked to his bench in the closing stages and three substitutes were involved in a fitting final flourish as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic combined to feed Emerson, who finished clinically to the left of Oblak.
Chelsea join Manchester City and Liverpool in Friday’s draw meaning three of the last eight are from England; having rolled the dice with a managerial change, you wonder if this could be 2012 all over again for the Blues.
Chelsea reach the @ChampionsLeague quarter-finals for the first time since 2014 🎉🙌
Not conceded in almost 10 hours of play (597 minutes) ⛔
6 successive clean sheets for 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝟳𝟭𝟱 𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵𝗲𝘀 (since 2008) 🙌 pic.twitter.com/dmNCowFmpy
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) March 17, 2021
Chelsea end wait for knockout win – Opta stats
- After a run of four consecutive eliminations when appearing at the last 16 stage in the Champions League, Chelsea have progressed to the competition’s quarter-finals for the first time since 2013/14 under José Mourinho.
- Chelsea are yet to concede a goal in six home games under Thomas Tuchel in all competitions; indeed, the Blues have kept 11 clean sheets in 13 games under the German, more than any other Premier League club since his first game in charge in January.
- Chelsea became the first English club to eliminate Atlético Madrid from the knockout stage of a major European competition since Gary Megson’s Bolton Wanderers in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup last 32.
- Atlético Madrid have now lost more UEFA Champions League games against Chelsea (four) than any other opponent.
- In all competitions, Timo Werner (10 goals, 7 assists) has been directly involved in more goals this season than any other player for Chelsea.
- Atlético Madrid defender Stefan Savic received his third UEFA Champions League red card; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edgar Davids and Sergio Ramos (all four) have had more in the competition’s history.
Chelsea host Sheffield United in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday; kick-off is at 1.30pm. Meanwhile, Atletico Madrid are at home to Alaves in La Liga at 5.30pm.
Champions League key dates
Quarter-finals first legs: April 6/7
Quarter-finals second legs: April 13/14
Semi-finals first legs: April 27/28
Semi-finals second legs: May 4/5
Final: May 29 (Atatürk Olympic Stadium)