Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start to life as Chelsea manager continued as his side battled to a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in Bucharest.
It was a bit of a nervy start from Tuchel’s side, with a loose touch from Edouard Mendy undoubtedly putting hearts in mouths, the Chelsea ‘keeper coming under pressure from Luis Suarez who was unable to take advantage of the mistake.
Chelsea did however start to dictate play and dominate possession, though they found it hard to break down Atletico’s well-drilled and tightly-packed defence, their best chance of the first-half seeing Timo Werner’s effort from a narrow-angle comfortably saved by Jan Oblak.
With the Spanish league leaders so defensively organised, it felt as though it would take either a mistake or something special to see Chelsea score, and it was the latter as Olivier Giroud fired beyond Oblak with a delightful overhead kick.
The goal was initially ruled out for an offside, but after almost three minutes of deliberation, VAR decided to overturn the decision, with defender Mario Hermoso deemed to have played the ball which was stylishly despatched by the veteran French striker for what could be a crucial away goal.
Atletico changed their shape as they went in search of an equaliser, but they ultimately failed to a single shot on target as Chelsea held on relatively comfortably to grab a 1-0 win.
Speaking afterwards, Blues boss Tuchel was delighted with his side’s discipline and intensity, saying that breaking down Diego Simeone’s side is one of football’s ‘toughest challenges’.
3 – Thomas Tuchel became the third Chelsea manager to win his first UEFA Champions League game in charge when the game took place in the knockout stage, after Roberto Di Matteo and Guus Hiddink. Baptism. pic.twitter.com/56u8ggupC8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 23, 2021
“Fantastic result, fantastic goal. Well deserved,” he told BT Sport.
“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.
“We knew it [Atletico 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 Atletico.”
Chelsea picked up two yellow cards throughout the contest, though crucially, they were significant ones, with the midfield duo of Mason Mount and Jorginho now set to miss the return leg through suspension.
Next up for Chelsea is a Premier League clash against second-placed Manchester United.