Olivier Giroud’s spectacular overhead kick gave Chelsea an outstanding victory against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 first leg in Bucharest.
Giroud’s superb moment of improvisation not only delivered the win and a vital away goal but also continued new manager Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start at Chelsea and put them in pole position to reach the quarter-finals.
In a tie played in Romania instead of Spain because of Covid-19 restrictions, Giroud demonstrated athleticism and technique to send an acrobatic effort beyond Atletico keeper Jan Oblak in the 68th minute. The goal was originally ruled out for offside before a video assistant referee review revealed the ball had bounced off Atletico defender Mario Hermoso.
It was reward for Chelsea’s more progressive style in the face of the usual attritional approach from Diego Simeone’s Atletico. They rarely troubled Tuchel’s side who comfortably kept the in-form but increasingly frustrated Luis Suarez at bay.
Chelsea have now gone eight matches unbeaten since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard while Giroud is emerging as their Champions League talisman after scoring all four goals in the group-phase victory against Sevilla and a last-minute winner away to Rennes.
Tuchel’s biggest statement yet
Tuchel’s Chelsea have been efficient rather than spectacular since the German coach was appointed following Lampard’s departure in January – but there will be no complaints after the most impressive result of his brief time in charge.
Chelsea were regarded as underdogs in this last-16 tie against the La Liga leaders but apart from a couple of early scares – keeper Edouard Mendy miscontrolled early in the game before Suarez flashed the ball across the face of goal – they were in charge.
They showed more ambition than a strangely lethargic and even more cautious than usual Atletico.
It will increase Chelsea’s confidence that they have appointed a coach who is comfortable operating at the highest levels after reaching the Champions League final with Paris St-Germain last season and impressing at Borussia Dortmund.
And once again the 34-year-old Giroud proved what an intelligent and talented player he is with a piece of ingenuity that settled a tight game to give Chelsea high hopes going into the second leg.
Giroud has proved time and again he is invaluable to Chelsea’s cause, demonstrating what a bargain buy he was at £18m from Arsenal in January 2018.
It was also a good night for young England forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, who performed creditably after the debate surrounding his substitution after coming on as a substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.
Hudson-Odoi was replaced again after 79 minutes in Bucharest but this was after a performance full of energy and hard work that will have delighted taskmaster Tuchel on a highly satisfying night for Chelsea.
Another Champions League goal for Giroud – the stats
Thomas Tuchel became the third Chelsea manager to win his first Champions League game in charge when the game took place in the knockout stage after Roberto Di Matteo and Guus Hiddink.
Atletico Madrid failed to have a shot on target against Chelsea – the first time they had failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League game since March 2019 v Juventus.
Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud has scored six Champions League goals this season, his best return in a single campaign in the competition.
Giroud (34 years and 146 days) became the oldest player to score a Champions League knockout goal for Chelsea.
Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League this season (five).
Mason Mount’s yellow card after 55 seconds was the quickest card shown in the Champions League this season.
Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea and PSG) became only the second manager in the history of the Champions League to manage two different clubs in the competition within a single season after Ronald Koeman in 2007-08 (PSV and Valencia).
More to follow.
Player of the match
Squad number13Player nameOblak
Squad number15Player nameSavic
Squad number18Player nameFelipe
Squad number7Player nameJoão Félix
Squad number6Player nameKoke
Squad number8Player nameSaúl
Squad number14Player nameMarcos Llorente
Squad number10Player nameCorrea
Squad number11Player nameLemar
Squad number22Player nameHermoso
Squad number9Player nameSuárez
Squad number19Player nameDembele
Squad number20Player nameVitolo
Squad number12Player nameRenan Lodi
Squad number5Player nameTorreira
Squad number18Player nameGiroud
Squad number19Player nameMount
Squad number7Player nameKanté
Squad number28Player nameAzpilicueta
Squad number11Player nameWerner
Squad number20Player nameHudson-Odoi
Squad number4Player nameChristensen
Squad number3Player nameAlonso
Squad number2Player nameRüdiger
Squad number17Player nameKovacic
Squad number5Player nameJorginho
Squad number24Player nameJames
Squad number10Player namePulisic
Squad number16Player nameMendy
Squad number22Player nameZiyech
Squad number29Player nameHavertz
22HermosoSubstituted forMachín Pérezat 84′minutes
14LlorenteBooked at 63mins
8SaúlSubstituted forTorreiraat 82′minutes
11LemarBooked at 90mins
10CorreaSubstituted forDembeleat 82′minutes
7SequeiraSubstituted forLodi dos Santosat 82′minutes
12Lodi dos Santos
20Hudson-OdoiSubstituted forJamesat 80′minutes
5JorginhoBooked at 64mins
17KovacicSubstituted forZiyechat 74′minutes
19MountBooked at 1minsSubstituted forKantéat 74′minutes
11WernerSubstituted forPulisicat 87′minutes
18GiroudSubstituted forHavertzat 87′minutes
Match ends, Atlético de Madrid 0, Chelsea 1.
Second Half ends, Atlético de Madrid 0, Chelsea 1.
Reece James (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Vitolo (Atlético de Madrid).
Foul by Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea).
Lucas Torreira (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Thomas Lemar (Atlético de Madrid) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Thomas Lemar (Atlético de Madrid).
Foul by Kai Havertz (Chelsea).
Koke (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Andreas Christensen (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Luis Suárez (Atlético de Madrid).
Foul by Kai Havertz (Chelsea).
Renan Lodi (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Chelsea. Christian Pulisic replaces Timo Werner.
Substitution, Chelsea. Kai Havertz replaces Olivier Giroud.
Foul by Reece James (Chelsea).
Renan Lodi (Atlético de Madrid) wins a free kick on the left wing.