Michy Batshuayi was again the hero for Chelsea as his 94th minute goal gave Chelsea a 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid in their UEFA Champions League tie. It is the first time an English team have won away to Atletico Madrid and the first time Atletico have been beaten at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Antonio Conte’s men pulled off one of their best European performances away from home to date, dominating Atletico from start to finish and coming back from a goal down to collect another 3 points in their Champions League group.
The blues were by far the better team in the first half and nearly broke the deadlock when Eden Hazard’s deflected effort hit the post. Despite this warning, the Atletico players were unable to get close to Hazard and his link-up play with Alvaro Morata looked to be causing the Atletico backline a lot of problems. Perhaps Chelsea’s best chance of the first half came when a brilliant ball from David Luiz found the head of Morata in the box, but the Spaniard could only direct his effort straight at Atleti goalkeeper Jan Olblak who pushed it over the bar.
The home team took the lead against the run of play when a needless tug on the shirt of Atletico centre-back Lucas Hernandez by David Luiz led to a spot-kick, which was fired home by Antoine Griezmann in the 40th minute. It was the club’s first European goal at the Wanda Metropolitano and it gave them a half-time lead against the run of play.
The heightened atmosphere did nothing to deter Chelsea in the second half, who continued to dominate and were rewarded on the hour mark when a brilliant Eden Hazard cross was headed in at the near post by Alvaro Morata.
The former Real Madrid man had been on the wrong end of jeers from the home crowd due to his former association with their city rivals and he delighted in celebrating in front of them with a delirious Antonio Conte.
Chelsea were playing with confidence, pressing Atletico high up the pitch and forcing mistakes from the backline. The blues should have taken the lead in the 62nd minute when a comedy of errors on the left side of the Atletico defence led to Hazard crossing for Cesc Fabregas, who should have tapped in from 5 yards. But the midfielder couldn’t get his feet sorted out in time and passed the ball wide of the right hand post.
11 minutes later Hazard released Morata on the left side of the pitch and the Spanish international raced past young Lucas Hernandez but fired narrowly wide of the opposite post when one-on-one with Oblak.
Batshuayi and Willian came on for Morata and Hazard with Conte keeping an eye on the Manchester City game at the weekend and as the game ticked towards a 1-1 draw, Chelsea were lucky to avoid conceding another penalty when Tiemoue Bakayoko clipped former Chelsea star Fernando Torres on the edge of the box. Atleti’s claims were waved away by referee Cuneyt Cakir.
Chelsea were awarded a free-kick in the last minute of added time and chose not to lump it into the box, preferring a slow and steady build-up that involved nine passes, from one side of the pitch to the other, and seven different Chelsea players. Eventually the ball was worked wide to Marcos Alonso who hit a low cross for Michy Batshuayi to tap in from even closer than Fabregas had been when he shot comfortably wide.
The Chelsea bench erupted, with substitutes pouring onto the pitch as the referee blew the final whistle to condemn Atletico Madrid to a maiden European defeat at their new home. Former Chelsea striker Diego Costa was in the stands to watch his new team falter against his old and his disdain was made clear when he rested his face in his hands following Chelsea’s winning goal.
The blues now sit top of their Champions League group with six points, two ahead of Roma who they play next at Stamford Bridge. Atletico Madrid remain winless in third position, five points behind Chelsea with a goal difference of minus one. Defeat for them ends an 11-game unbeaten run at home in Europe, having been in two of the last four Champions League finals.
Conte will be happy to see Morata and Hazard linking up so well, particularly with another big game looming at the weekend. Their performance- which has been described by Eden Hazard as Chelsea’s best Champions League performance since he joined the club in 2012- will give them confidence that they can compete with Europe’s elite.