Chelsea booked our place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with a 2-1 away win over Lille in the second leg of our last-16 tie, completing a 4-1 victory on aggregate.
Despite our 2-0 lead from the first game at Stamford Bridge, Lille came out pushing for a way back into the tie in front of their home fans in an intense match.
It was the French side who took the lead on the night, after VAR intervened to give a penalty against Jorginho for handball, with Burak Yilmaz smashing the spot kick into the top corner.
We were level before the half-time break, though, albeit only by a matter of seconds. It was Christian Pulisic who found the net, just as he did in the first leg, placing a calm finish into the bottom corner after being slid through by Jorginho's brilliant through-ball.
We had scares in the second half, most notably when Xeka headed against the post for Lille, but it was Blues captain Cesar Azpilicueta who scored the all-important next goal. He met Mason Mount's left-wing cross at the back post to send the ball past goalkeeper Leo Jardim, putting us three goals ahead on aggregate and effectively sealing our progress into the competition's last eight.
Thomas Tuchel made five changes to his team from Sunday's win over Newcastle United, meaning that Hakim Ziyech was the only player who started the first leg against Lille not to do so again in France.
Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger kept their places ahead of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy as we switched to a back three, being joined by Thiago Silva as Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr dropped to the bench, having been our full-backs against Newcastle.
Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic all started in midfield, with Mason Mount among the substitutes, while Spaniards Marcos Alonso and captain Cesar Azpilicueta both returned as our wing-backs. Azpilicueta featured for the first time since going off at half-time in the win over Norwich City and Alonso made his first appearance since last month's Carabao Cup final.
In-form Kai Havertz continued in attack, alongside the returning Christian Pulisic, who came in for Timo Werner, meaning both our scorers from the first leg started again in the return match.
The Lille supporters were in strong voice in a packed stadium as the two teams walked out onto the pitch, with the home fans trying to urge their team on, aware of the mountain they needed to climb if they were to overturn Chelsea’s two-goal lead from the first leg at Stamford Bridge.
Mendy took some of the sting out of the start by calmly coming to claim a Lille cross into the box and a lengthy spell of Chelsea possession around the five-minute mark also helped to calm things down a little, with Thiago Silva in particular trying to slow the game down with his passing.
However, Les Dogues weren’t to be discouraged so easily. A powerful Burak Yilmaz shot needed a brave block by Thiago Silva after an interception by Benjamin Andre in a dangerous area and there was further danger from a Yilmaz free-kick, which thankfully flew beyond the crossbar with Mendy watching it all the way.
It took nearly 20 minutes of an evenly matched first half for Chelsea to start stamping some authority on the game, using our back three and the additional man in midfield to keep possession and try to control the tempo, but the most promising opportunities for both sides came on the counter-attack.
In one brilliant burst through the centre of the pitch, Kovacic somehow weaved his way through three players in a tight space with some quick feet, before sliding the ball left to Pulisic, but the American couldn’t quite get the weight right on his pass towards Havertz in the six-yard box and Lille goalkeeper Jardim was able to gather.
Behind, but not for long
There was a set-back for the Blues, tough. Christensen had been struggling with an injury ever since being clattered by Yilmaz when challenging for a header and it soon became clear he couldn’t continue.
Given the intensity of the game, it was always going to be difficult for replacement Trevoh Chalobah to slot in seamlessly and Lille took advantage of that. A minute after coming on he was booked for a foul on Jonathan David and, when the resulting cross from a free-kick pinballed around our penalty area, there were loud shouts for a handball from the Lille players.
After a VAR check the referee watched the replay on the sideline and awarded a penalty against Jorginho. It was a tight call as the ball certainly struck the midfielder’s elbow and his arm was moving down towards the ball, but it bounced back at him from close range and didn’t appear deliberate as he was off balance.
None of that bothered Yilmaz, though, as he smashed a powerful spot kick into the top corner, giving Mendy no chance despite the keeper going the right way.
As we approached the end of the first half, the Lille players finally started to drop their relentless pace and we were able to control the closing stages. The home crowd were making a fierce noise to try and pressure the Blues into a mistake - even the stadium announcer was joining in the singing over the PA system - but it didn’t work.
Deep into first-half injury time, our long spell of possession finally opened up time and space for Jorginho just outside the box and he took full advantage, sliding a brilliant outside-of-the-boot through-ball into the path of Pulisic. Just like in the first leg, the forward showed great composure when he got his chance, placing a finish right into the bottom corner to pull us level on the night and restore our two-goal aggregate advantage.
Despite that goal, Tuchel decided he needed to make a change during the break, with Mason Mount coming on to replace Kovacic. That saw us switching to a front three, with Mount and Pulisic flanking Havertz.
We were soon given a warning that this tie was far from over, when Jonathan Bamba managed to create space for the cross up against Alonso and Mendy, diving at full stretch, was relieved to see Yilmaz’s header fade just wide of the top corner.
We were starting to look more comfortable on the ball and Rudiger wasn’t too far away from scoring an excellent goal when an Alonso free-kick rebounded in his direction on the edge of the box after striking the wall. The centre-back hit a first-time volley on the turn while facing away from goal and it only just curled wide of the far post.
It was clear Lille knew they needed to make an impact soon if they were to have a chance and manager Jocelyn Gourvennec rolled the dice, taking off defenders Zeki Celik and Sven Botman for winger Amadou Onana and striker Timothy Weah, son of former Chelsea player and Ballon d’Or winner George Weah.
It nearly paid instant dividends for Lille, as Xeka got free on the penalty spot to meet Yilmaz’s cross from the right, but he headed his effort against the post with Mendy frozen to the spot.
Out of reach
It was clear the next goal would be crucial to the tie. However, it was the Blues who struck next, punishing that wasteful finishing to put us ahead on the night and extending our aggregate lead to 4-1.
Again, it came at the end of a long patient passing move. Alonso nodded a cross-field ball towards Mount and the substitute did well to make space and send his delivery across the face of goal from the left. Just as it looked like the chance might have gone, with no Chelsea short managing to reach the cross, Azpilicueta came storming in at the back post ahead of his marker. The ball was bouncing high and awkwardly, but our skipper did brilliantly to make sure he got something on it, somehow directing the ball high into the net with plenty of power off his knee.
That goal left Lille knowing they needed to score three goals to take the game to extra time, with just over 15 minutes remaining, and unsurprisingly it seemed to knock a lot of the fight out of their team.
With several sets of fresh legs coming on for Chelsea as Tuchel made full use of his bench, that never looked like a feat Lille had a chance of achieving, with our defence rarely being tested by the tiring home side. In fact, it was Lille goalkeeper Jardim who needed to make a good late save to deny Alonso after he had been slid through by Kante.
By the final whistle many of the Lille players looked exhausted and slumped to the pitch as the referee blew for full time, while the Blues celebrated our progress to the quarter-finals in front of the travelling fans.
We are away in knock-out action again at the weekend, this time in the FA Cup quarter-finals as we travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday 19 March, with kick-off at 5.15pm. After that the Premier League takes a pause for this month's international break, with the Blues returning to action against Brentford on Saturday 2 April.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Mendy; Christensen (Chalobah 33), Thiago Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta (c), Kante, Jorginho (Loftus-Cheek 74), Kovacic (Mount h-t), Alonso; Havertz (Ziyech 83), Pulisic (Lukaku 74)Unused subs: Arrizabalaga, Bettinelli, Kenedy, Sarr, Vale, WernerScorers: Pulisic 45+3, Azpilicueta 72Booked: Chalobah 34
Lille (4-4-2): Jardim; Celik (Weah 59), Fonte (c), Botman (Onana 59), Djalo; Bamba (Gomes 78), Andre, Xeka, Gudmundsson (Bradaric 78); David (Ben Arfa 78), YilmazUnused subs: Grbic, Raux, Lihadji, ZhegrovaScorer: Yilmaz pen 38Booked: Gudmundsson 42, Fonte 90+4
Referee: Davide Massa (Italy)