regular-article-logo Thursday, 22 February 2024

Champions League: Chelsea remain ruthless on pitch

Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta score for the Premier League side

Reuters Published 18.03.22, 02:10 AM
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel File Photo

Holders Chelsea made light of their off-pitch problems to reach the Champions League quarter finals by beating Lille 2-1 away on Wednesday to complete a 4-1 aggregate victory.

The Premier League side, playing amid sanctions imposed on their Russian owner Roman Abramovich following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, eased through thanks to goals by Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta.


French champions Lille dominated for long spells and opened the scoring thanks to a Burak Yilmaz penalty in the opening half, but lacked precision up front and paid dearly for lapses in concentration.

Chelsea, operating on a special licence from the British government that has limited their spending and impacted their operations, showed great composure to ease into the last eight.

“Everyone is calm at the club. The club’s culture is about football. Football is the priority at Chelsea, that’s why we’re focused on what happens on the pitch,” Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel told French TV channel RMC Sport. At their Pierre Mauroy stadium, Lille had made the better start to the match.

Jocelyn Gouvennec’s side put Chelsea on the back foot as Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante struggled to take control of the midfield.

Lille were rewarded in the 38th minute when they were awarded a penalty following a VAR review after a Jorginho handball in the area.

The 36-year-old Yilmaz, the third oldest scorer in the Champions League knockout stages after Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs, buried the spot-kick into the top corner to give the hosts a deserved lead and high hopes of an upset after losing the first leg 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Lille, who had not conceded a goal in their three Ligue 1 games since the first leg, let their guard down, however, and Chelsea punished them with their first shot on target as Pulisic collected a fine through ball from Jorginho to score with a low shot three minutes into first half stoppage time.

Although they were hit by injuries which forced Sven Botman and Zeki Celik to leave the pitch, Lille applied more pressure after the break and Yilmaz wasted two clear chances.

Chelsea were far more ruthless and after 71 minutes Mason Mount’s cross bounced off Azpilicueta’s knee into the top corner to end Lille’s hopes of reaching the last eight.

Villarreal’s late dash

Villarreal scored three late goals to secure a stunning 3-0 second-leg victory at Juventus, condemning the Serie A side to a 4-1 aggregate loss and a last-16 exit for the third successive season.

Having fallen before the quarter finals against Lyon and Porto in the previous two seasons, in-form Juventus, who had lost just once in their last 21 matches in all competitions, were firm favourites to progress.

Juve dominated the first half and were unfortunate not to go into the break in front after Dusan Vlahovic’s brilliant flicked effort came back off the crossbar, but they could not keep up the pressure in the second period.

Villarreal were content to sit back and wait for their moment, which came in the 78th minute after the visitors were awarded a penalty following a VAR review, with substitute Gerard Moreno, who had only just come on, squeezing the spot kick home.

Juve threw on Argentine striker Paulo Dybala as they looked to level the tie, but goals down the other end from defender Pau Torres and another penalty, this time converted by Arnaut Danjuma, completed a famous win for Unai Emery’s team.

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