Christian Pulisic and N’Golo Kante reacted to our European progress by reflecting on what we can achieve in the knockout round and how we need to improve to reach further targets.
In keeping with our Champions League campaign this season, the full range of emotions were experienced at Stamford Bridge last night but ultimately there was a feeling of relief and accomplishment in the damp London air as we secured our place in the last-16 with a narrow victory over Lille.
The winning margin was much tighter than it should have been and there was clearly a feeling in the dressing room afterwards that chances need to be more clinically converted if we are to continue our European adventure beyond the first knockout round in the New Year.
However, goals from Tammy Abraham and Cesar Azpilicueta ultimately proved sufficient to send Frank Lampard’s Chelsea through as group runners-up. Christian Pulisic played a key role in the opener and the American indicated the lessons the team needed to learn in the final third.
‘I’m really happy to just be a part of this team,’ he said after the game. ‘When we were flowing like you could see in the first half it was really nice but in the end, if we’re being critical on ourselves, we need to be even more clinical, myself as well.
‘After they scored we made it closer than it needed to be. We should have scored more goals and made it much easier on ourselves but we got the result so it was okay and in the end, we’re really happy to go through.’
The 21-year-old has played knockout football in the Champions League previously with former club Borussia Dortmund, scoring in the round of 16 in 2016/17 against Monaco, and he believes his new Chelsea team-mates have all the attributes to cause problems in the latter stages.
‘It’s an amazing thing to go straight to the knockout stages,’ he added. ‘We’re a confident bunch of guys and we feel we can go up against anyone so we’re really excited for the next round because the knockout stages of the Champions League is where you want to play.’
N’Golo Kante was also instrumental in our victory over his compatriots, covering every inch of grass in recovering possession and keeping the Blues on the front foot.
‘It was not easy,’ admitted the France World Cup winner. ‘After 2-0 we had difficulty to find the third goal and when they scored to make it 2-1, it was a bit difficult but we got what we wanted and we’re happy for that. We had a lot of chances and we’re pleased to have scored twice but it was difficult to score the third one.’
Champions League football will now resume for Chelsea in February and Kante feels the prospect of continuing in European club football’s elite competition will provide plenty of motivation for his team-mates in the second half of the campaign.
‘It was always our target to do well in the Champions League,’ he said. ‘We knew that today was a big game for us and it would have a big influence on the rest of our season so to continue in this competition is a big target for us.
‘For the young players, for all the team and for the club, to play against the big teams and try our best is a big chance for us. We need to believe that we can achieve something great, work for that and do our best.’
Chelsea will find out our last-16 opponents when the draw is made in Nyon on Monday 16 December from 11am. Click here for everything you need to know about the draw.