After Real Madrid’s unforeseen thrashing of Bayern Munich, the world’s eyes were on the highly anticipated second semi final. The first leg had ended in a goalless draw and the match was evenly balanced.
The pressure was ever so slightly on Chelsea. Due to the away goal rule, for every goal conceded they would have to strike twice. The recovery of Hazard and Terry was a bonus for boss Jose Mourinho, however Petr Cech was still out.
Ramires and Luiz were fielded as holding midfielders while Lampard and Mikel were out owing to suspensions. Azpilicueta and Hazard were deployed on the wings and Willian was played in the centre behind Torres. Atletico were without their boisterous midfield presence and captain Gabi who was suspended. Raul Garcia was surprisingly benched. Adrian Lopez played alongside Costa.
The match was very open with space in the midfield. Hazard’s skill and Willian’s pace were a constant threat. Azpilicueta and Ivanovic were linking up well on the right. Ramires looked slightly out of place playing between Willian and the right flankers while Luiz was sitting deep. Chelsea’s attack looked sharp with frequent penetration.
However Atletico’s tactic of getting bodies in front of the ball was working and Hazard and Willian were significantly subdued. Defensively, Mourinho opted for the tactic of coalescing men in the box. As a result there was lot of space for Atletico in the midfield and Willian was the only defensive presence in that area. However, contrary to the first leg Chelsea looked shaky in the aerial zone and crosses were not dealt with as sturdily as before.
Despite the many flaws Chelsea struck first with a neat low cross into the box which was swung in by Torres. Atletico’s defensive organisation was shockingly shoddy but after conceding they quickly regrouped and ameliorated.
Meanwhile Chelsea’s lack of midfield presence cost them when a ball into the box was not defended and amidst confusion and panic Adrian slotted the ball into Schwarzer’s net right before half time.
A notable aspect of Chelsea’s game was that the team rather than functioning as one, seemed to be playing in units. The defense and midfield were not coordinating well. Although Hazard had dropped back to defend, he appeared unaware of the happenings and him not tracking his man resulted in the concession of the first goal.
In the second half Cole was substituted for Eto. The change resulted in Azpilicueta dropping to left back. Unfortunately, this proved to be for the worse as Chelsea’s midfield play appeared slack save some quality from Hazard and energy from Willian. Ramires was a complete debacle and failed to dictate the game.
On the one hour mark Eto tripped Costa inside the box which resulted in a penalty coolly bedded home by the latter. After gaining this cushion, the game was in Atletico’s hands and the effect was seen in the players who now focussed on defending. Commendably, their midfield looked sturdy and strong with Suarez, Adrian and Koke coordinating and coalescing. Their impregnable wall prevented Willian and Luiz from progressing down the middle.
As Chelsea knocked on Atletico Madrid’s formidable defense, the former’s lack of defensive stability was slowly emerging and in the 72nd minute Arda Turan sealed the game when his initial header bounced back in his path and from point blank range he directed the ball in. Gary Cahill and Terry were absolutely shamefaced and their lack of composure in these challenging was surprising to see. In an effort to kickstart a comeback, Willian was taken of for Schurrle but the change had little effect on the game as Atletico players’ seemingly endless energy continued to emanate from their defence.
For once, it seems that Jose Mourinho was outwitted by Diego Simeone. The latter’s team showed vibrance and tactical prowess which left Chelsea hapless. Mourinho’s two-striker tactic also failed and Atletico’s defensive stability clinched the tie for them.It was a valiant effort from Chelsea but sometimes valiance is not enough. Atletico now face Real Madrid in a rare and eagerly awaited Champions League final Madrid derby.
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