N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech stood out as Chelsea beat Atletico Madrid 2-0 to book their place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Atletico Madrid showed more urgency in the early exchanges here than they had in the entirety of the first leg last month, albeit with little end product. Chelsea, too, were unable to carve the chances out in the opening half hour, but managed to break the deadlock in the 34th minute, when Hakim Ziyech finished off a swift couner-attacking move, calmly tapping in Timo Werner’s low cross.
The Blues were firmly in control for the remainder of the opening period, as they went into half-time with their slender advantage, which put them comfortably ahead in the Round of 16 tie. Chelsea started the second half pretty much how they ended the first period, firmly in control of the proceedings.
Atletico Madrid’s frustrations came to a head in the 81st minute when Stefan Savic was sent off for elbowing Antonio Rudiger. Chelsea made their numerical advantage count late on to put the tie to bed, as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic linked up beautifully before Emerson Palmieri scored, as Chelsea reached the quarter-finals. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Thomas Tuchel’s men.
Edouard Mendy: 7/10
In the first half, Mendy did not have a lot of glovework to do and his silky footwork to get the ball out of trouble early on was the notable moment before the break. Forced into one big save post the interval and he did well to ensure he kept his clean sheet.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
A solid outing for the most part for Azpilicueta, although he was perhaps a tad bit fortunate to not have conceded a penalty for what seemed to be a foul on Yannick Carrasco. Saw the ball more often than any other player (100 touches) and utilised it smartly. Won 5 duels while making 4 clearances, 2 tackles, 1 block and 1 interception.
Kurt Zouma: 7/10
Back in the starting lineup due to the illness of Andreas Christensen, Zouma did well to keep the three-man unit organised while also remaining disciplined on an individual level. Won 8 duels, made 5 clearances while also completing a couple of tackles. Filled in ably for the Dane.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
The impressive performances are racking up for Rudiger under the tutelage of Tuchel and once again, the German international made a mark. Kept a check on Luis Suarez superbly while also making a big block. Did not shy away from aiming a shot at goal either and was within whiskers of scoring once.
Reece James: 7/10
Back in the starting lineup, James saw a lot of the action going through his side and he was creative as ever in his role. Sent in the joint-most key passes (3) while boasting a tremendous passing rate of 94 percent. Did reasonably well on the defensive front as well, hardly letting Carrasco get the better of him.
N’Golo Kante: 9/10
N’Golo Kanté made more ball recoveries than any other player against Atletico (13).
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2021
The man of the match, Kante’s early exchanges saw him have a sight at goal before he settled in to his usual position and almost entirely shut off Atletico Madrid. Made a game-high 13 recoveries and his engine was absolutely pivotal for Chelsea to open the scoring while keeping the visitors at bay. Simply colossal.
Mateo Kovacic: 7/10
Back in the side in place of the suspended Jorginho, Kovacic was typically industrious in the middle of the park. Had a pass completion rate of 92 percent, which helped Chelsea keep the ball efficiently in the game, while he also completed each of the long balls he attempted. Put in the hard yards defensively as well and never stopped running.
Marcos Alonso: 7/10
Not involved a whole lot, but still helped in asserting Chelsea’s dominance in the game as he misplaced just five passes all game. Had one fine opening coming his way courtesy Kai Havertz, but could not convert it. Not tested a great deal defensively, with Kieran Trippier hardly getting past him.
Hakim Ziyech: 9/10
After a dreadful showing against Leeds United, this was Ziyech’s chances to make amends and that is exactly what he did. Cool as you like for the finish for his goal, even though Jan Oblak ought to have done better to stop his effort. Created a brilliant chance for Werner in the second half. Fashioned a couple of more chances while also making 3 recoveries. Job well done.
Hakim Ziyech’s game by numbers vs. Atletico:
100% long ball accuracy
6 duels won
4 touches in opp. box
3 chances created
3 ball recoveries
2 shots on target
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 17, 2021
Timo Werner: 8/10
Such an impressive display, this. Werner was on the money from the moment he first touched the ball, always carrying some sort of a threat charging forward. Swift break for the opening goal before he found Ziyech with an inch-perfect low cross. Thwarted by Oblak with a top-notch save early in the second half. The only thing missing from this performance was that elusive goal. Confidence booster still.
Kai Havertz: 7/10
A performance full of purpose and energy, Havertz started the game well when he linked up with Alonso. Showed great composure and touch before sending Werner on his run in the lead-up to the opening goal. Continued to show some nice touches, although his influence waned post the break.
Christian Pulisic: N/A
On for Ziyech, Pulisic looked purposeful in his display before combining late on with Hudson-Odoi for the second goal of the game.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: N/A
Hudson-Odoi did not have many opportunities to showcase his best skills but he did end up linking up with Pulisic before Emerson Palmieri put the tie to bed.
Ben Chilwell: N/A
A late introduction, Chilwell helped see the game out.
Emerson Palmieri: N/A
On for Havertz in the dying embers of the game, Emerson scored from his only touch and what a goal it was!