Chelsea have secured their place in the Champions League quarter-finals with a 2-1 victory against Lille at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy, giving them a 4-1 win on aggregate.
While the build-up to this match was overshadowed by a maelstrom of speculation about potential takeover bids, Chelsea showed little sign of distraction in the early stages. Lille had a couple of dangerous efforts through Burak Yilmaz, one after Jonathan David had cleverly drawn a foul from Andreas Christensen to set him up for a dipping free kick, but otherwise the visitors set the tempo.
With half an hour gone, Thomas Tuchel’s game plan seemed to be working perfectly. While they hadn’t made too many forays into Lille’s final third, Chelsea had dominated possession and left Lille chasing their tails.
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Then, suddenly, the hosts looked to have found a way back into the tie. Christensen went down injured and was replaced by Trevoh Chalobah, whose first act was to earn a booking for hauling down David on the edge of the area.
The ensuing free kick caused chaos in the box and, amid the flailing limbs, Lille midfielder Xeka bundled the ball onto Jorginho’s outstretched arm.
Following a VAR check, referee Davide Massa pointed to the spot. Yilmaz stepped up and, despite Edouard Mendy guessing the right way, he rocketed his penalty into the top corner.
Just when it seemed like Lille had a fighting chance, however, Chelsea delivered a brutal counterpunch. On the stroke of half time, Jorginho played a fantastic through-ball to Christian Pulisic who slotted low past Leo Jardim from a tight angle.
To their credit, Lille didn’t lose heart. Five minutes into the second half, Jonathan Bamba danced past Marcos Alonso out wide before crossing to Yilmaz who left Mendy scrambling to save a header which, after what seemed like an age, fell narrowly wide.
The hosts were centimetres away from restoring their lead when Yilmaz turned provider and found Xeka with a lofted cross, only for his team-mate’s header to hit the post and ricochet away to safety.
In the end, though, Chelsea killed the tie when, after an excellent passing move, Mount picked up the ball out on the left and slashed it across the face of goal to Cesar Azpilicueta at the far post. He hammered home from close range to give Tuchel’s side their fifth win in a row in all competitions.
A club of contrasts. Despite their ongoing crisis off the field, Chelsea continue to look strangely serene on it. Since the announcement last Thursday that Roman Abramovich’s UK assets had been frozen by the government, throwing the club he has owned since 2003 into turmoil, Tuchel has presided over three consecutive victories against Norwich, Newcastle and, now, Lille.
Speaking after the win against Newcastle on Sunday, Tuchel said: “There are circumstances we can’t influence, but that gives us the freedom to focus on the things we can influence.” Amid such huge upheaval, the fact that he has kept his players focused on the task at hand speaks to his authority as a coach.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jorginho (Chelsea). He may have given away the penalty – not that he could do much about it – but Jorginho just edged N’Golo Kante on the night as Chelsea’s most influential midfielder.
Not only was he the architect of their possessional dominance, he played some truly superb passes. His assist for Pulisic’s goal was probably the outstanding moment of the game.
Lille: Jardim 6, Djalo 6, Botman 7, Fonte 6, Celik 6, Gudmundsson 6, Xeka 7, Andre 7, Bamba 7, David 7, Yilmaz 8
Subs: Onana 5, Weah 5, Ben Arfa N/A, Bradaric N/A, Gomes N/A
Chelsea: Mendy 7, Christensen 5, Silva 7, Rudiger 7, Azpilicueta 7, Kante 8, Jorginho 8, Kovacic 7, Alonso 6, Havertz 6, Pulisic 7
Subs: Chalobah 5, Mount 7, Loftus-Cheek 6, Lukaku 5, Ziyech N/A
37’ PENALTY! There’s chaos in the box and, in the jumble of players, Jorginho brushes the ball with his arm. There’s no penalty initially but VAR intervenes, Massa goes to the monitor and Lille are awarded the spot kick.
38’ GOAL! Yilmaz steps up and, while Mendy goes the right way, the top corner bulges regardless. Have we got a game on our hands?
45+2’ GOAL! And, just like that, Lille’s hopes go up in smoke. Jorginho plays a beautiful through-ball to Pulisic, who slots past Jardim.
62’ LILLE HIT THE POST! Yilmaz scoops in a cross from the right and finds Xeka, who heads onto the upright with Mendy rooted to the spot.
71’ GOAL! It’s all over here. A lovely passing move ends with Mount picking up the ball on the left and slashing a cross to Azpilicueta, who smashes home at the far post.
- As per Opta, Tuchel has now won 32 of his 50 Champions League matches as a manager. That means he has equalled Jupp Heynckes (32 wins from 47 matches in total) as the coach with the most victories inside his first 50 matches in the competition.
- Lille’s exit means there will be no French club in the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the third time in the last five seasons (2017/2018, 2018/19 and 2021/22). There was at least one French representative at the quarter-final stage in the six campaigns prior to that.
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