As the clock ticked away in Bucharest on Tuesday night, it looked like we would have to settle for a drab goalless draw against Diego Simeone’s ultra-defensive Atlético Madrid in the first leg of our Champions League Round of 16 encounter.
But a moment of magic from Olivier Giroud changed all that, and put Chelsea in a fantastic position for next month’s second leg. That’s not necessarily a sustainable way of winning games, but it is perhaps a good way to avoid losing them, which was the first objective for the first leg.
Chelsea captain César Azpilicueta, now just a couple appearances away from top-10 all-time for the club, was perfectly happy with the win as well.
“That was obviously a tight game, there were not a lot of chances. We knew we had to make the most of them because [Atlético] are very solid, they defend together, it is not easy. We had to defend together as a team and we did a solid team performance, but there is still a lot to do.
“They are a solid team. We know that they have quality players, that they can make a lot of chances with different solutions and when it is a Champions League last 16 we know that every chance is very important.
“Now we have it in our sights but there is still a lot to do and we fully believe that we are very capable of doing a good match again in the second leg.
“We play every game to win. We scored one away goal and it is important, we won, we didn’t concede any chances or goals. We’ve played the first leg and it’s a positive result, but we know there is lots to do and we work to improve and go through.”
It might look like Chelsea are on the verge of reaching the quarterfinals of this competition, something that hasn’t happened since 2014, but the tie against Atlético is far from over.
The second leg will be at the Bridge, but Simeone’s men won’t go down without a fight. In fact, back in 2014, it were them who came back at the Bridge to knock Chelsea out in the semifinals.
To avoid that from happening again, we will have to play even better.
“We are here so, of course, every team that is in the last-16 stage has a chance to win it, so let’s go step by step. We cannot get too carried away about this result. It’s positive, we are in a good dynamic, but we know that as a team we can still go further.
“We have an amazing squad with the quality, number of players, competition inside of the team, so let’s go and keep progressing and improving.”
-César Azpilicueta; Source: Chelsea FC
Step by step. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as they say, or in this case, half-time.