Chelsea produced a performance worthy of champions league contenders at Atletico Madrid’s new ‘Metropolitano’ stadium. By far the best performance of our season so far, Conte got things tactically spot on and reduced Atleti to a handful of chances over the course of the match.
Conte chose to use 3-5-2 from the off, with Hazard partnering Morata upfront. Luiz returned to the backline alongside Cahill and Azpilicueta, while wingbacks Alonso and Moses flanked the midfield trio of Fabregas, Bakayoko and Kante. Atletico Madrid used there traditional 4-4-2, but could not get to grips with Chelsea all night.
When they did have possession early on, Conte’s defensive tactics became clear. With only Alonso and Moses wide, The overlapping runs of Felipe Luis and Juanfran from the full back positions were to be dealt with by Kante on the right, and Fabregas on the left, leaving Bakayoko to control proceedings centrally. Kante and Fabregas worked tirelessly all match to ensure that the full backs would not have free reign down the flanks. Madrid on the other hand, were having more problems in dealing with Alonso and Moses, both pushing on down their respective wings. Corrasco and Niguez were not tracking the runs, and time after time in the first half, balls out wide would find these two with the chance to take on the full back. Over the course of the match Simeone instructed his wingers to tuck in and leave Luis and Juanfran to deal with our wingbacks. By this time though, the home side were already on the back foot, and needed the extra help in central midfield. Chelsea moved the ball well, and looked threatening in possession. Fabregas was often able to find Morata, and every time he held possession or created a chance. Indeed he seemed to be relishing his new strike partnership with Hazard. Two times in the first twenty minutes, Hazard was able to drop off, and pick out Morata in the right hand channel, both shots a yard or so wide of the far post. It looked like a strike pairing that had played together for months, rather than this being their first time out together. Hazard dummied another ball into him, Morata playing it back, and the Belgian rattling the post with the subsequent deflected effort.
Madrid did not look like the home side here. Despite having two strikers, they seemed unconcerned by our centre backs having the ball. Luiz was able to march into the opposition half before floating a pinpoint ball over the head of Godin, to Morata who had pulled of him at the back post, his header well tipped over by Oblak.
From the resulting corner the ball fell for Alonso on the edge of the box, his volley just over.
Despite an excellent first half performance, we hadn’t registered a goal, and would end up conceding one before the half time whistle.
Madrid forced a corner, and the in swinger to the near post from the left hand side was cleared, but the referee had spotted Luiz pulling the shirt of his opposite number, lazily holding him as he had lost his run. Penalty subsequently despatched down the middle by the otherwise anonymous Griezmann.
They had a chance to double before the whistle, after Correa had a shot parried into the danger zone by Courtois, but Niguez steered the rebound wide. 1-0 at the break.
The second half continued like the first. Going in behind at the break clearly had not rattled Chelsea. Dictating play, good movement in the midfield often found Morata of Hazard upfront, or Alonso or Moses wide. All worked tirelessly throughout the evenings proceedings.
Alonso had a volley deflected narrowly wide of Felipe Luis, Godin and Hernandez had no answer for Morata, while Griezmann had no answer for Cahill or Azpilicueta at the other end. Chelsea looked a threat generally, but also on the counter attack. Morata was put behind on the half way line with one such attack, shrugging of his marker and heading for goal, but the tight angle he was left with meant he couldn’t steer his shot on target.
The deserved equaliser finally came with half an hour still to play. Hazard had pulled wide on the left, and was found by Fabregas. He whipped in a stunning left footed cross with pace, and Morata glanced it into the far corner after his diagonal run to the near post. Nothing less than we deserved.
1-1 would probably have been a result most of our fans would have taken before the match, but at this stage it would have been slightly disappointing after such a good performance.
Twenty minutes to play, and Torres was now on for Correa. He could get no change from our backline either. But Atletico were more concerned with defending now anyway. Kante and Fabregas were playing wider across the middle, and even with narrow wingers Atletico struggled to cover all the areas required. As the wingers left Moses and Kante to their own full backs, they both found space freely before reaching the opposition box. When Juanfran started coming out to Alonso, the Spanish wingback could find Hazard in the space left in behind.
With eighty-two minutes on the clock, Morata and Hazard were withdrawn, Willian coming on, to be partnered by Batshuayi. When four minutes later Fabregas was replaced by Christensen, it looked like we were headed for a point each.
Three minutes was the additional time added. In the last minute of this, Bakayoko was fouled some twenty-five yards out. A sublime piece of magic was about to happen. We worked the free kick square across the box, seemingly no danger for Atletico, As it found its way back to the right with Moses, he played it into Bakayoko, back to goal just inside the right channel of the box, he flicked it round the corner to Alonso, and as the Madrid defenders advanced towards him, he played in a low cross for Batshuayi to despatch into the bottom corner. Cue bedlam in the away end. Chelsea had taken all three points from the first champions leaguer match ever played in Atletico’s new ground. Three points that were completely deserved. If anything, the last minute winner didn’t do justice to how good a performance this was from Chelsea. We had come away to a side perennially in the last four of the champions league, and convincingly outplayed them. This was a marker to the rest of the competition. Not only are we back in the champions league, but also we have a real chance of competing for the trophy itself.
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2) 1
(Griezmann 40, pen)
Juanfran, Godin, Hernandez, Luis;
Niguez, Partey, (Jiminez 77) Koke, Carrasco; (Torres 69)
Griezmann, Correa; (Gaitan 70)
Chelsea (3-5-2) 2
(Morata 60, Batshuayi 94)
Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill ©;
Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, (Christensen 86), Alonso;
Morata, (Willian 82), Hazard; (Batshuayi 82)