Having faced almost exclusively deep-lying defenses in his first month as Chelsea manager, it was perhaps naïve to expect anything other from one of the absolute masters of said style tonight in Bucharest. While Diego Simeone’s Atletico have played a more expansive style in general this season, they opted for a bit of classic Cholismo in order to grind out a result in the first leg of our Round of 16 matchup.
Instead, it were Chelsea who found the one moment of absolutely quality to make the difference on the night, giving us a fantastic 1-0 away win to take into next month’s home leg.
“Fantastic result, fantastic goal. Well deserved.
“We wanted to dominate in the opponents’ half, to never lose concentration, not to do any easy mistakes and always be aware of quick counter-attacks for all their quality. It was a very disciplined performance — a deserved shut-out. This is the hard work, a team effort — the basis for a big win.”
It’s not a win that will be framed in any museum of the beautiful game, but at the end of the day, winning is what actually matters.
And when the margins involved are so small — one mistake at the back practically the only difference between this win and the weekend’s 1-1 draw at Southampton — it’s ever impressive that we could maintain the required composure, quality, and determination needed for this result, especially given Atletico’s penchant for playacting and someone like Mason Mount getting a yellow card in the first minute!
“We knew it [Atlético packing their defence] could happen. We told the guys if it happens maybe it’s our quality and the respect. We wanted to be brave and play in their half.
“We knew they were ready to suffer with eight people in the box. The intention was to keep the intensity high. This is what we did very good. We never let them breathe or come out for counter-attacks. We have a big reward with this result.
“This is one of the toughest challenges to open a defence like Atlético.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: BT Sport via BBC
The job is of course only half done. We only have to look to the 2013-14 semifinals how a good first result can turn massively sour at home. Atleti are unlikely to approach the second leg in the same fashion as the first.
But that’s a worry for another day. Today we get to appreciate a massive win, and take this confidence into the upcoming massive games in the Premier League!