Chelsea’s defensive master-class proved successful as they became only the third side to deny Atletico Madrid scoring at home this season.
For all the threat possessed by the home side with the likes of Diego Costa, and despite such a make-shift defence with Petr Cech and John Terry getting injured during the match, the visitors followed in the footsteps of Real Madrid and Barcelona to stop Diego Simeone’s men from scoring at home.
And despite the lack of an away goal, it means Chelsea will progress with a win at home next week.
The starting eleven set out by Jose Mourinho looked a robust one, but as ever, Chelsea had to do things the hard way and give fans a scare. Whilst it was not in the form of a Terry red card a la Barcelona 2012, it was an injury to Petr Cech early in the first half. It was perhaps the most notable moment from the first-half, with the big Czech goalkeeper landing awkwardly on his elbow after a collision with Raul Garcia whilst defending a corner. Mark Schwarzer was called immediately to make him the oldest player to appear in the Champions League knock-out stages.
And with his handy little outing against Sunderland on Saturday, he was in the right place at the right time throughout all the first-half Atletico crosses, and together with Cahill and Terry, limited Diego Costa and Atletico Madrid to very few chances. Koke blazed a few long-range efforts high and wide to relieve Chelsea pressure, with the Blues themselves opting to soak it up rather than follow the adage of “attack is the best form of defence”.
In fact, Chelsea had no chances worthy of note in a very cagey first 45 minutes, and only recorded two shots on target — and 31% possession — for the duration of the first leg. Fernando Torres was feeding off scraps, and where he did get the ball, was often let down by his first touch. However, a few promising runs drew fouls but Jonas Erikkson, the referee who has overseen all of the major England sides’ exit from Europe this season, was having none of it.
As Chelsea sat deeper in the second half, so the fouls kept appearing. And at what cost to the Blues’ midfield? Mikel and Lampard both picked up bookings which rules them out of the second leg, and worse was to come when Terry innocuously stepped on David Luiz’s foot. The Chelsea captain came off worse by rolling his ankle. With no experienced centre-back on the bench, it was Andre Schurrle who came on in his place, with players shuffling right down the formation.
But Chelsea saw it out and return home confident they can get another clean sheet and, hopefully, pinch a goal. As for tonight at the Vincente Calderon Stadium, it was a very hard-fought 0-0 draw.
Man of the Match
GARY CAHILL: The former Bolton man has been a huge player for Chelsea this season alongside John Terry, who has clearly been a massively beneficial partner for the 28-year-old. Chelsea’s captain has played with many defensive partners and thankfully has passed all his experience to Cahill, who had to produce the biggest of nights when without Terry by his side. He and Mikel helped Schwarzer massively in keeping Atletico at bay, through his head, face or chest. His passion when wearing Chelsea blue is also undeniable. 8/10
Mourinho was content with the result: “Atletico needed to win this game and we stopped them. We played a solid game and frustrated Atletico who normally frustrate others. It is an acceptable result for Chelsea, but not a good one. The season is over for Cech, but I do not know about Terry.”
Simeone was respectful of Mourinho’s tactics: “Mourinho is surely better than me; the results talk for themselves. They defended well: we tried wide, tried inside, but could not get through.”