In a not-so predictable encounter, Chelsea’s striker, Olivier Giroud acrobatically hooked home with 20 minutes left but celebrations were paused for a while as the linesman’s flag was instantly raised. However, the ball had deflected off Mario Hermoso rather than Mason Mount, which was spotted by VAR, and after three minutes of deliberation the goal was finally awarded to Giroud’s Chelsea side.
The La Liga leaders, Athletico Madrid, were forced to play their home leg over 3,000 kilometres from Madrid due to Spanish restrictions on arrivals from Britain to control the spread of COVID-19 infections.
Meanwhile, Thomas Tuchel was definitely facing his toughest test since joining Chelsea but set up his team shrewdly in Bucharest, keeping a lid on Luis Suarez while controlling possession throughout. Atletico were unable to get a shot on target as Chelsea put themselves in pole position to reach the quarter-finals.
The Chelsea boss, Tuchel, will have to go without Mason Mount and Jorginho in the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 17 as they will be suspended after being booked.
However, Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was singled out by his manager in last game’s draw with Southampton, was a surprise starter on the right for Tuchel in a cagey opening to the game.
Chelsea’s goalkeeper Edouard Mendy almost slipped to pile more misery on the visitors after a heavy touch in the penalty area but Saul was unable to make the most of the goalkeeper’s mistake.