It wasn’t to be for Antonio Conte’s men as they couldn’t beat Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge. The 1-1 draw meant that Chelsea slipped down to 2nd (thanks to Roma’s win over Qarabag) and Atletico were dumped out of the tournament at such an early stage. Stefan Savic’s own goal cancelled out Saul Niguez’s opened but the Blues missed a hat full of chances to win the game.
The first half went by with very little incident to be honest. Alvaro Morata almost recreated Oscar’s sensational swivel and shot goal that he scored against Juventus back in 2012 but the Spaniard’s shot whistled the wrong side of the post. Fernando Torres, making his return to Stamford Bridge, saw his shot deflected over by Cesar Azpilicueta but Torres’s side threatened very little before the break. Davide Zappacosta, playing at left wing-back, cut inside and hit a powerful low shot towards the bottom corner but was denied by Jan Oblak’s right hand.
It was Chelsea who came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half. Both Morata and Andreas Christensen had headers saved by Jan Oblak before Filipe Luis fired in a shot that cannoned back off the post. Koke got his head on the rebound but Thibaut Courtois got back to gratefully grasp it and the danger passed. But it only passed for a couple more minutes as Tiemoue Bakayoko lost Saul at the back post and the Spanish midfielder nodded into Courtois’ net after Torres’s flick on. The former Chelsea striker was substituted immediately after and was given a round of applause from each side of the ground – showing that he’s still loved at the club.
Pedro came on for Bakayoko and added an attacking impetus to the side. He was involved straight away, crossing for Christensen but the young Dane couldn’t guide his header on target with the goal gaping. The Atletico goal was living a charmed life as Victor Moses sent a ball towards Pedro who flicked it in the direction of Alvaro Morata but a combination of Jose Angel Gimenez and Jan Oblak kept the striker out in the goal mouth.
The Blues got the breakthrough they deserved minutes later after excellent work down the right by Eden Hazard. He shifted past a couple of defenders before powering a cross towards his teammates at the back post. Stefan Savic poked his leg out but could only divert it into his own goal and Chelsea were level. Diego Simeone made some attacking substitutions as the game opened up. Oblak saved well from Morata after Cesc Fabregas had created a great chance for his compatriot before Willian blazed an equally good chance over the bar from about 12 yards out.
It was end to end stuff and Antoine Griezmann didn’t gamble at the back post after Angel Correa had fired a ball across goal. Atletico were piling forward and nearly got a penalty when Gary Cahill lunged into Correa but the Chelsea captain got the ball and the referee got the calm right. Michy Batshuayi made his first appearance since before the last international break when he replaced Morata and the Belgian almost won the game for a second consecutive time against Atletico. He drove into the penalty area and sent a lifted shot towards the back post but it curled agonisingly wide of the goal as things ended all square at Stamford Bridge.
Before the competition began, it looks like a tough group for Chelsea and it proved that way. Antonio Conte will be glad to be safely through to the next round and the away game against Roma ultimately cost the Blues top spot. Handsome wins against Qarabag weren’t memorable but Batshuayi’s winner in Madrid will live long in the memory. And one thing’s for sure, we won’t be seeing Diego Costa in the knockout stages of the Champions League after the turn of the year.