Chelsea are through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in seven seasons.
A Hakim Ziyech goal late in the first half was added to our 1-0 lead from the first leg and was the result of the best move of the game – a counter-attack with Timo Werner teeing up the Moroccan for his third Chelsea goal, and the cherry on the cake was added deep into added time at the end of the game when substitute Emerson slotted for his second goal for the Blues. It was another break from our half with Christian Pulisic the provider this time.
Ziyech had a fine night, as did many of his colleagues. N’Golo Kante was dominant in midfield, the defence was typically strong, and the Blues showed a genuine edge to our attacking play, able to test the La Liga leaders on the counter on frequent occasions.
There was frustration for the visitors from Spain before the first goal when their appeals for a penalty against Cesar Azpilicueta were turned down, but it is hard for anyone to argue that Chelsea do not deserve to progress given the quality of our performances over the two legs.
Ziyech went close to increasing the margin of victory when his second-half shot was saved by Jan Oblak, and Atletico lost a man to a red card inside the final 10 minutes, Stefan Savic the player dismissed.
This triumph over perennial high achievers in the Champions League feels like a major achievement. We will find out our next opponents in this competition when the draw is made on Friday.
Thomas moves top
With this result tonight, Thomas Tuchel moves clear as the Chelsea manager with the longest unbeaten run at the start of his time in charge. It is 13 games without defeat, beating the 12 of Luiz Felipe Scolari back in 2008/09. It was accompanied by the 11th clean sheet under his control.
It was Timo Werner who was given the task of leading the attack, Tuchel citing his compatriot’s pace as a factor, so Kai Havertz played in a more withdrawn role than at Leeds. With Andreas Christensen absent due to a non-Covid illness, there was a place for Kurt Zouma in defence and we went with Reece James and Marcos Alonso as the wing-backs. Mason Mount and Jorginho were suspended and Thiago Silva and Tammy Abraham injured.
Building on our advantage
On the previous 13 occasions Chelsea had brought a first-leg lead into the home match of a European tie, we had never been eliminated, and we were not about to change that tonight. Olivier Giroud’s acrobatic goal in Romania, where the Spaniards’ ‘home’ game had to be played rather than Madrid, had set up this Stamford Bridge meeting nicely, and although the winning strike in this second leg was more of a team effort, it was still a goal to thrill.
With the tie finally balanced at the start of this game, many were anticipating a cagey encounter so would there be space for Werner to exploit if Atletico sat back?
There was a promising sign there would be when the German attacked as early as the first minute, and 33 minutes later he would do so again to great effect to set up the opening goal.
Before then, Mendy comfortably caught the first of the visitors’ two shots on target in the first half, this one a tame effort, and there was frustration on the Chelsea bench when having been gifted the ball by a loose Atletico pass, an advantage initially given to N’Golo Kante when he was fouled near the visitors' penalty area did not materialise. Yet there was still no free-kick.
On 10 minutes, a great pass from Havertz gave Alonso the chance to attack former Spurs man Kieran Trippier, back in the Spaniards’ line-up having missed the first leg, but although our wing-back worked a yard of space on the outside for a shot, he did not connect with power.
At the other end, Kante made an important challenge when Joao Felix was tricking his way into a shooting position but that was a rare attack from Atletico in the mid-period of the first half as Chelsea, playing with good tempo, were keeping the Spaniards pinned back. Ziyech was looking his sharpest for some time and there were good touches and vision from Havertz.
A thumping side-to-side challenge from Toni Rudiger on Luis Suarez on the edge of the Chelsea area floored the Uruguayan and had him asking the officials for a decision with his arms out wide
Soon after Yannick Carrasco was tumbling, inside the area this time, after brief contact from the hand of Azpilicueta who had under-struck a ball back towards Mendy, but again the Italian referee had no sympathy for the Atletico shouts, and VAR remained unemployed.
Havertz was booked on 30 minutes for an arm-up collision with Stefan Savic, and Renan Lodi followed him into the book a minute later for sliding through on Reece James. Atleti would earn three more yellow cards and their red in the second half.
Those first bookings of the game were followed quickly by the first goal – and what a great break it was!
Werner twice played a crucial part in the move, first charging to put tremendous pressure on a Trippier cross which forced the ball to be given away to Kante. The counter-attack was sprung with Havertz taking two touches to release Werner where he could make his speed count. When the ball was centred, Ziyech placed it under the goalie for a 2-0 aggregate lead. There were 34 minutes played.
Mendy stopped a deflected shot from Felix, a harder save than his first before Kovacic shot wide at the end of a productive half for his side.
Seeing it home in the second half
There was a good save from Jan Oblak soon after the restart to deny Werner, sent racing away by Ziyech on this occasion.
The scorer of our first goal almost added a second with a well-struck curler that Oblak stretched to tip over.
The team from Madrid needed goals but the Blues were on top and given our recent defensive strength, letting this one slip seemed unlikely. The peripheral Suarez was substituted before an hour was played.
Instead we continued to attack with Werner blazing wide after a run from the Chelsea half.
With time running out, Felix screwed a shot wide for Atletico but their task was made all the harder by a late red card for former Man City defender Savic for elbowing Rudiger at a corner.
It did take a fantastic save by Mendy from Felix to prevent one goal being pulled back at the very end. Mendy now has the joint-most number of shut-outs in this season’s Champions League, level with Man City’s Ederson.
There was just time left for the second Chelsea goal, when seconds after he came on, Emerson was picked out by Pulisic who had sprinted clear and the left-back rifled the ball low into the far side of the net.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Rudiger; James, Kante, Kovacic, Alonso (Chilwell 90+3); Ziyech (Pulisic 77), Havertz (Emerson 90+3); Werner (Hudson-Odoi 82).
Unused subs Kepa, Caballero, Gilmour, Anjorin, Giroud.
Scorers Ziyech 34, Emerson 90+4
Booked Havertz 30
Atletico Madrid (4-4-2): Oblak; Trippier (Lemar 69), Savic, Gimenez, Lodi (Hermoso h-t); Llorente, Koke (c), Saul, Carrasco (Dembele 53); Joao Felix, Suarez (Correa 59).
Unused subs Grbic, San Roman, Vitolo, Kondogbia, Torreira, Herrera, Felipe, Vrsaljko.
Sent off Savic 81
Booked Lodi 31, Saul 51, Giminez 60, Koke 72
Referee Daniele Orsato from Italy