Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta made the difference as Chelsea came from a goal down to beat Lille 2-1 and reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Lille had a two-goal deficit to overcome, and they started the game showing the purpose to claw their way back into the tie, buoyed by the vociferous home support. But Les Dogues’ endeavour did not always yield positive results, as they mustered only one shot on target in the first half, with Thiago Silva standing tall at the back.
Fortunately for Lille, the solitary shot on target yielded a goal from the spot. Burak Yilmaz scored a penalty after Jorginho had handled the ball following a touch from Xeka. But Chelsea restored the two-goal cushion at the stroke of half-time, as Christian Pulisic produced a precise finish from an acute angle, with Jorginho atoning for the penalty error by setting up the USMNT international.
Lille continued to push for a goal to change the complexion of the tie, but neither Yilmaz nor Xeka could trouble Edouard Mendy enough. Chelsea soon took control of the proceedings and put the game to bed when Cesar Azpilicueta finished a superb team move by converting Mason Mount’s cross from close range in the 71st minute.
The strike was enough to kill all Lille hopes of completing a glorious comeback, with Chelsea clinching a 4-1 aggregate win to progress to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Thomas Tuchel’s men.
Edouard Mendy: 6/10
Mendy barely had anything to do in the game, even though Lille had Chelsea on the ropes for large portions. The Senegalese goalkeeper did not need to make a single save and could have done nothing about Burak Yilmaz’s fiercely driven penalty. There were a couple of occasions when he desperately dove to keep out an effort, but neither was on target.
Andreas Christensen: 5/10
Christensen endured a difficult first half before limping off the pitch with a knock. The Dane was hardly comfortable at the back, but he won most of his duels. And on one such instance, he landed awkwardly, forcing Tuchel to take him off in the 33rd minute.
Thiago Silva: 7.5/10
Silva was the standout performer for Chelsea, as he often is in difficult games. When Lille took the game to the Blues, the veteran centre-back barely put a foot wrong, winning all his contested duels while making crucial defensive interventions to calm things down. He was also precise with the ball at his feet, misplacing just five passes all game.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5/10
Rudiger took some time to get going, as Jonathan Bamba and Yilmaz’s dual-threat on his side kept his hands full. But the German international found a stable footing as the minutes wore on, and he was thoroughly professional in the second half when Chelsea saw the tie out without much of a fuss.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
"I just put out a leg and it went with my knee… I'm not very used to scoring goals." 😆
César Azpilicueta reflects on his match-winning moment, overcoming struggles off the pitch and Chelsea's hopes of retaining their #UCL crown 🤞
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 16, 2022
Azpilicueta had a game of two halves, quite literally so. The Chelsea captain did not carry much threat down the right flank but never let Gabriel Gudmundsson trouble him. While Azpilicueta misplaced only two passes, he should have done more to affect the proceedings in the final third. But he rounded off the win by popping up in the right place at the right time to finish off Mason Mount’s ball.
N’Golo Kante: 5/10
Kante is usually the standout performer for Chelsea, especially when the game is in a Champions League setting. But the Frenchman endured a rare blip on Wednesday, giving the ball away carelessly several times while making a few needless fouls. But there was no harm done in the end, as Chelsea beat Lille to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
Jorginho had an eventful first half, as he gave away the penalty, albeit unluckily so, by handling the ball when going up against Xeka. But the Chelsea vice-captain atoned for his mistake by slicing the Lille defence open to set up Christian Pulisic for the leveller. He was not at his controlling best but improved as the minutes ticked.
Jorginho’s first-half vs Lille:
97% pass accuracy
46 total touches
6 ground duels won
3 ball recoveries
3 tackles won
1 penalty committed
Involved in both goals… 🇮🇹😅 pic.twitter.com/pRxxMXBTu4
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 16, 2022
Mateo Kovacic: 6/10
Kovacic had the task of providing the forward thrust from midfield, which he did when the opportunities presented themselves. And the Croat was also solid off the ball, never shying away from putting in the hard yards or covering ground for Marcos Alonso. So his half-time substitution was surprising, although Mount vindicated Tuchel’s decision.
Marcos Alonso: 6/10
Alonso returned to the starting lineup after recovering from a recent injury. But the Spaniard was well off his best, as he struggled to impose himself going forward while being defensively suspect. His shortcomings often left Rudiger with a lot to do when defending Bamba. Perhaps persisting with Saul Niguez as the left wing-back might not be a bad idea for Chelsea.
Kai Havertz: 6.5/10
Thursday’s game was a rare occasion when Havertz was not in the thick of action. But the German international found ways to force himself into the match. He often dropped deep to help his team out when Lille pressed forward, completing some crucial clearances and tackles in the process.
Christian Pulisic: 7/10
Pulisic was a bundle of energy, putting in a lot of effort off the ball to help Chelsea out in a difficult first half. And the USMNT international ended the opening period with a fantastic finish from an acute angle to restore the Blues’ two-goal cushion. That was his only shot in the game, but Pulisic still impressed with his work rate.
4 of Christian Pulisic's 7 goals in the Champions League have come in the knockout stages.
He loves the big occasion 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/vvknPmRMLe
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 16, 2022
Trevoh Chalobah: 5/10
Chalobah replaced the injured Christensen and continued from where the Dane left off. The young defender looked a little shaky at times and gave away a foul in the build-up to the Lille goal. But he improved as the game progressed, making some important clearances.
Mason Mount: 7/10
Mount came on Kovacic at the break and improved Chelsea’s creative output almost immediately. The English international pulled the strings smartly and set up Azpilicueta’s goal with an excellent pass.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: N/A
Loftus-Cheek replaced Jorginho for the final 15 minutes and barely put a foot wrong in his came, helping Chelsea see the game out.
Romelu Lukaku: N/A
Lukaku hardly got a touch on the ball in the final 15 minutes, with Chelsea playing out the game after Azpilicueta’s goal.
Hakim Ziyech: N/A
A late introduction, Ziyech barely had anything to do, with the tie already won.