Last Chance Tuesday
5th December, Stamford Bridge – Last chance Tuesday in UEFA Champions League Group C. Last chance for Atletico de Madrid to avoid joining Arsenal in Europe’s second tier. Last chance for AS Roma to claim top spot in one of this season’s toughest CL groups. Last chance for Chelsea to duck a January clash with Barcelona or PSG in the first knockout stage.
All three clubs needed a win to secure their objective, but Roma were the most likely to get that result in their home game v FK Qarabag.
Yes, Chelsea had beaten Atletico the last time these two teams met. But after a difficult run of seven low-scoring draws in nine games, including two shock draws with Qarabag, Atletico had rediscovered their touch in front of goal. They’d now scored twelve goals and conceded only one in four consecutive wins against Roma, Levante, Elche and Real Sociedad.
Chelsea had experienced troubles too, but they were back in form now with five wins from six games since the start of November, fourteen goals scored and only two conceded. This was going to be a quality game between two great football clubs.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Courtois 7, Moses 7, Azpilicueta 7, Christensen 7.5, Cahill 7, Zappacosta 7 (Willian 7.5), Kante 7, Fabregas 6.5, Bakayoko 5.5 (Pedro 6.5), Hazard 8, Morata 7.5 (Batshuayi 7)
Subs Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Drinkwater, Willian, Pedro, Batshuayi
Oblak 8, Hernandez 6, Gimenez 7 (Vietto 5.5), Savic 7, Luis 7, Koke 7.5, Niguez 8, Partey 7, Gabi 6.5 (Correa 6), Torres 7.5 (Carrasco 5.5), Griezmann 6.5
Subs Moya, Godin, Vrsaljko, Vietto, Carrasco, Correa, Gameiro
Jan Oblak is World Class
Atletico had the first major chance of the game four minutes in. Saul Niguez’s weak shot came back off ex-Chelsea striker Fernando Torres. Torres tried unsuccessfully to control the ball, but then it came back towards him off Tiemoue Bakayoko. Torres went for the shot, but Azpilicueta intercepted for a corner.
Twelve minutes on, Christensen passed to Alvaro Morata on the edge of Atletico’s penalty area. Morata turned and attempted to curl a shot into the top corner, but his shot was just off target.
Shortly afterwards Cesc Fabregas made a quick throw to put Victor Moses through on the right wing. Moses made it to the byline and cut back for Morata. The striker stretched to reach the ball on the edge of the six-yard area, but Oblak got down quickly to save his shot. Chelsea had another chance a minute later when Zappacosta made a through pass to Morata in the box. Morata attempted to drive the ball in from an angle, but Oblak saved again.
Davide Zappacosta had been looking pretty good drifting inward from the left wing back position, and on 36 minutes Fabregas found him with a long pass from midfield. He feinted left to dummy Thomas Partey, then hooked a shot right towards the bottom corner, but Oblak read it perfectly again, and kept the ball out.
It stayed goalless until halftime. Although Chelsea had the clearer chances in the first half, Atletico’s defenders had kept it tight, and their keeper had been an almost impassable barrier.
The second half started much like the first had ended – Chelsea with more chances, but Atletico keeping it tight – and that’s always a dangerous situation for the more aggressive team. You have to turn dominance into goals, otherwise you’re asking for a sucker punch. And that’s exactly what happened – Chelsea got sucker punched.
First, Griezmann’s free kick was easily saved by Courtois. Then Fabregas’ goalward cross was cut out by Lucas Hernandez for a corner. Hazard managed to get a cross to Christensen from the corner, but the center back’s header was too close to the keeper and Oblak held it.
A minute later Hazard made another marvellous opportunity when he got forward on the break. He dribbled past Savic, then cut inside Gimenez, but Savic recovered to deflect his shot out for another corner. This time Fabregas crossed to the far post, but Oblak positioned himself perfectly to save Morata’s header.
Seven minutes into the half, Christensen blocked Koke’s shot on the edge of the area. The rebound fell to former Chelsea full back Filipe Luis, who drove in a shot from twenty-five yards out. The ball got past Courtois, hit the base of the post and rebounded out again to Saul Niguez. He made a diving header that really should have opened the scoring, but Courtois was back on his feet and prevented it from going in.
Three minutes later Atletico scored the first goal, off a corner. It was just a few seconds loss of concentration from the Chelsea players, but it was enough. Luis crossed to Fernando Torres at the near post, and he headed the ball on across goal for Saul, who escaped Bakayoko to nod the ball in from point-blank range. Visitors 1 – 0 Chelsea.
The assist was Fernando Torres’ last contribution to the game – he was subbed off for Yannick Carrasco immediately afterwards. Antonio Conte held on for a bit, then switched to a 3-4-3 and brought on Pedro for Bakayoko, was looking little bit off the pace. It was the change the game needed, and when Willian replaced Zappacosta on 73 minutes Atletico began to creak under the pressure.
A couple of minutes later, Hazard got possession out wide on the left and drove a shot in low and hard. Savic got his foot in the way but the ball deflected off him then Oblak and into the net for a lucky equalizer. Well it was lucky, but creating the right pressure increases the probability that you will be lucky.
Atletico are a naturally cautious side but they had to take risks now – a draw wasn’t going to be good enough to get them qualification. And as they came forward Chelsea caught them repeatedly on the counter.
Morata had a golden opportunity one-on-one with the keeper, but Oblak saved his shot yet again. Willian made some dazzling dribbles and runs to provide for Michy Batshuayi and then Hazard, but Michy’s shot curled just wide of the post, and Hazard strayed offside and the opportunity was lost.
At the end it wound up a 1 – 1 draw. Roma finished top of the group courtesy of their 1 – 0 win over FK Qarabag. Atletico Madrid dropped into the Europa League. And Chelsea were locked into playing Barcelona, PSG or Besiktas when the Champions League resumes in January.
This game was a little bit of a missed opportunity – the scoreline really didn’t reflect the number of chances Chelsea created for themselves. If they can improve their finishing just a little bit this season, they’ll definitely bank a lot more points in the games ahead.
Final Score Chelsea 1 – 1 Atletico de Madrid
Thumbnail image courtesy of: The Guardian
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