Atletico Madrid 0-1 Chelsea: Olivier Giroud scores a brilliant bicycle kick while Blues claims a massive first-leg victory in Bucharest
The ball found it just after 67 minutes and 56 seconds. After 70 minutes and 45 seconds, Chelsea was allowed to celebrate. They had scored an away goal: in a neutral stadium.
That’s modern football for you; but no one on the flight back to London from Bucharest would have complained. Justice has been done. The better, the more ambitious the team triumphed. Dour, Atletico Madrid stubbornly lost. Chelsea now has a vital advantage on the second leg. They will need it too. Mason Mount and Jorginho are missing, suspended and Atletico Madrid are dangerous if injured.
Still, this was a huge win for Chelsea and their manager Thomas Tuchel. Also for competition winner Olivier Giroud. He was Tuchel’s first choice as a striker, but did not hold the position. He could next. His hold-up game was excellent and his goal – well, it was a beauty. The kind of cause that deservedly deserved to win a nip and tuck encounter like this one. It was a moment of pure class in what was different, a swearing, niggly affair.
So why the confusion. It was a cross from Marcos Alonso that caused Madrid to crack. Mount was in it, hassle, and it confused defender Mario Hermoso. The ball turned to Giroud, who buried it with a beautiful bicycle kick. Atletico’s Joao Felix had already tried one, but without success.
Unfortunately, a linesman’s flag hung. Chelsea despaired. But VAR nowadays checks without bidding. So referee Felix Brych interrupted the restart while his colleague Marco Fritz watched. And a look. And one more look. Almost three minutes passed. Several players, mostly in stripes, tried to apply some local pressure. Brych only stepped out of earshot. Eventually news came. Hermoso’s intervention was considered a deliberate attempt to play the ball – whatever it was. He had therefore played Giroud onside. The goal was awarded.
Chelsea celebrated as a team and VAR is doomed. They celebrated as if the goal had been scored three seconds ago, not three minutes ago. And Madrid? They quickly reverted to a tetchy type. Well, one of them does. What would make Antonio Rudiger react so furiously to a collision with Luis Suarez? Ah, it was that sneaky squeeze on his inner leg, captured on camera in the replays. Suraez was later booked for a foul on Andreas Christensen. However, he will not be banned from the second leg. Atletico’s threat remains.
Still, after a very shaky start, this was a strong performance for Chelsea. They saw a lot of the ball and could have been frustrated by Madrid’s massive rows, but they stuck to beating a team that dominated La Liga this season. There is of course a lot of work to be done. But they have shown that Atletico can be beat, even in their own game. Very impressive stuff.
Scroll down to see how it all turned out with Sportsmail’s live runner.