In front of a packed Wanda Metropolitano, Chelsea took to the field with former Atleti supporter Alvaro Morata leading the charge in attack. Having played against Atletico on 6 different occasions without scoring, 5 for Real Madrid and once with Juventus, Chelsea’s new number 9 was eager to get one tonight.
Early on in the game, he had a shot saved by Jan Oblak after great link up play with Eden Hazard. The home supporters let him know they were there as a rapture of boos rang around the ground.
On the 12th minute, Hazard took a shot from 25 yards which was deflected and hit off the right hand post. The build-up play saw Chelsea’s Spaniards link up with Fabregas feeding the ball to Morata where he knocked it around the corner to Hazard.
A ball played across the Atletico penalty area by Juanfran caused panic around the 20th minute. N’Golo Kante applied pressure on Felipe Luis but was deemed to foul the former Chelsea left back as his boot connect with the Brazilian’s leg in the process.
The pressure being applied by Chelsea forced Atletico Madrid players back into their own half and were comfortable throughout the opening half. Godin’s options and avenues for passing were cut off by Chelsea’s midfield and ended up kicking the ball helplessly out of play on one occasion.
Atletico really struggled with the positions Hazard took up, moving into the centre of the pitch and linked up very well with Morata. The Atletico midfield in particular struggled to keep up with Chelsea’s and Conte certainly won the tactical battle as they seemed to outnumber the home side everywhere on the pitch.
This dominance by Chelsea lasted until around the 40th minute where Atletico slowly starting creeping their way back into the match. Juanfran made an adventurous run down the right hand side where he was eventually stopped. This gave the Metropolitano supporters enough reason to up the noise in the new stadium and gave more life to Atleti.
A few minutes later, the home crowd were given a genuine reason for an uplift in spirts as David Luiz was deemed to foul Lucas by dragging at his jersey in the build up to a corner. Antione Griezmann made no mistake from the penalty spot and made it 3 goals in 3 games in the new Metropolitano.
This goal went completely against the run of play as Chelsea put Atletico’s defence under a lot of pressure. However, experience in dealing with such proved pivotal for the Spanish capital side and nearly went 2 up as Saul sent a Courtois-saved shot from Koke just wide after some great build up play involving Correa.
Atletico’s luck continued into the second half. Thomas Partay handballed near the halfway line, a free was given but the midfielder was lucky to avoid receiving his second yellow card. Griezmann was less than lucky a minute later as he received a yellow card after hacking down Eden Hazard inside his own half.
Kante, who was deployed as a defensive midfielder in his last 2 seasons in England was used in a much further forward position this evening. Having been claimed as Makelele’s second coming, the Frenchman was instrumental in the pressure Atletico were put under as his speed in transition from defence to attack was a real concern for Simeone’s midfield.
Alvaro Morata finally got his first goal against Atletico on the 55th minute where he headed in an inch perfect cross from the very impressive Eden Hazard. His 7th goal for Chelsea so for this season for the former Real Madrid man. The link up play between these two will prove a great threat for all opponents for the remainder of the season.
2 minutes after Morata’s goals, Cesc Fabregas saw his effort slip the wrong side of Oblak’s post after some scrappy work in the box by Morata and a composed pass from Hazard to Fabregas. A chance that really should have been taken.
Hazard really on form tonight, picking up the ball in deeper positions and driving at the Atleti defence has been a very common theme.
Marcos Alonso nuttmegged Thomas Partey on the 67th minute on the left hand side of Chelsea’s attack, referee waved play on after the Spaniard took to the ground. Again, Thomas was on the edge of being sent off. Having had a positive start to the season, the Ghanaian was a good bit off the pace tonight.
After Koke hit a ball into Alonso’s arm on one side of the pitch, Chelsea broke away through Alvaro Morata. The Chelsea striker took on Lucas but was unable to steer the ball into the corner of the goal as it ended up on the outside of the post.
Thomas Partey was finally hooked off by Simeone on the 75th minute and replaced with Jose Gimenez. Should he have been left on, he was one foul away from being sent off and was lucky to stay on as long as he did. Atletico moved to 3 at the back in order to deal with Chelsea’s dominance … a second change of tactics.
Chelsea’s goal scorer (Morata) and the best player on the pitch (Hazard) were replaced with 10 minutes to go by Batshuayi and Willian. Presumably in the hope of Atleti continually pushing forward and Chelsea accepting the pressure, they may find one counter attack and Conte was wanting fresh legs for such an instance.
This instance is exactly what came to happen as substitute Michy Batshuayi tucked away his only chance where he was allowed to be unmarked with the last kick of the game. A great piece of play in the build-up from a free kick on the 93rd minute where Alonso pulled the ball back to Kante outside the box, he passed it first time into Bakayoko inside the box where he passed around the corner to Alonso on the right hand side again. He was able to find the young Belgian striker in open space in a packed area.
Overall, Chelsea will be delighted to come away with a deserving 3 points after putting in such a quality performance. The London club were by far the better team on the night. Conte’s substitutions and change of shape showed he was happy to come away from a difficult trip with a point. Bringing Christiensen on for Fabregas with 5 minutes remaining was a perfect justification of his contentment. Batshuayi was less content with a single point however and Diego Costa looked a disappointed character in the stand as his current teammates celebrated with delight.
From an Atleti perspective, they really struggled with Chelsea’s 3-5-2 shape and were very lucky to be up 1-0 at half time. This was also the first time Atletico lost to English opposition at home – unbeaten in 11 games before tonight – not the best of starts in a new stadium.
Juanfran certainly didn’t have his best game tonight. Going forward, the Spaniard is very effective, but defensively he leaves too much space in behind. He really struggled every time Hazard got the ball anywhere near him tonight. For a player who has always been a mainstay in this generation of Atletico Madrid, it is possible his time at the top is coming to an end. With an adequate replacement in Sime Vrsaljko available, I would expect him to get a lot more minutes for the remainder of the season.
Regarding Griezmann, he didn’t have his best game for Atletico but was found in his own defensive third in several stages during the game. Can’t see this changing once Vitolo and Diego Costa come into the team but can’t expect the Frenchman to be a defender and your main goal scoring threat at the same time.
Should Atleti have held on to claim a point, it would certainly have been an injustice on Chelsea. They spent the majority of the game soaking up pressure and looked like they were the away side from very early on in the game. They should still progress, but may expect to battle with Roma for 2nd place at this point.