Boy, did this match need this. Today’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid was a chore. Atletico can always be that, as their identity for the past decade has been to be defiantly, sneeringly obstinate. Chelsea are still finding their feet under new manager Thomas Tuchel, so being expansive isn’t high on their list of priorities yet either. With Atletico especially wary of giving up an away goal, the match boiled down to filling out a Happy Meal puzzle in a waiting room.
The Olivier Giroud goal that decided it might not quite have been worth the hike through purgatory it took to get there, but it was close:
Going with the theme, there was actually an interminable wait to see if this would count, as Giroud was originally ruled offside and the goal ruled out. VAR saw that the touch before Giroud’s came off an Atletico defender, making Giroud onside. The goal was Giroud’s sixth of the competition, which is quite the feat considering he’s only started two of Chelsea’s seven games. Helps when you score four in the other, as he did against Sevilla.
Making it even better was that Atletico’s Joao Felix tried the same just minutes earlier:
The 1-0 win gives Chelsea a vital away goal and lead to take into the second leg at home, with Atletico needing to score at least twice to go through. Maybe, just maybe, that’ll lead to the match being anything other than something outlawed by the Geneva convention. Maybe.