Michy Batshuayi grabbed Chelsea a last-gasp win at Atletico Madrid to ensure the Blues remained at the top of their Champions League Group C.
The Belgian forward came on as a substitute to steal the limelight, finishing off a calm and precise Chelsea move with the very last kick of the game.
Antonio Conte wanted to see what his team were really made of in their first big European outing and they did not disappoint. The Blues asserted themselves throughout, dictating the game, as Atletico struggled to cope with the Premier League champions.
The first European match at the newly built Wanda Metropolitano witnessed a tense affair, with Diego Costa helplessly looking on from the stands.
It was the home side that dealt the first blow against the run of play, after David Luiz was penalised for pulling down Lucas Hernandez inside the penalty area. Antoine Griezmann converted the following spot-kick, coolly slotting down the middle as Thibaut Courtois went low to his left.
Game in the balance
The tactical duel continued, with the away side reasserting themselves after half-time. Eden Hazard was always a threat, electricity crackling from his boots with every touch. In the 59th minute, Conte was punching the air in delight as the Belgian forward combined with Alvaro Morata to level the score; a right-footed delivery from the left edge of the penalty area flicked off the striker’s head.
The evening continued to intrigue with a match of the highest quality neither side able to deal a knockout punch. The importance was missed on no one in a game that felt more like the first leg of a quarterfinal.
An evening teeming with narrative saw Fernando Torres released from the bench into the fray, jangling the away fans’ nerves, but he never made an impact. Both managers looked happy with the prospect of a point, bolstering their defensive lines from the bench.
There was one last opportunity handed to the Blues while injury time ticked on. Instead of launching a free kick into a busy penalty area, Chelsea showed calm poise to work the ball through Tiémoué Bakayoko and Marcos Alonso. Panic in the ranks of a usually impenetrable Atletico defence left Batshuayi unmarked to fire home a low cross from inside six yards.
It is a deserving win and the first defeat for Atletico on home soil against English opposition – not the way they wanted to start life in a new home. Conte was the tactical master on the night, leaving two upfront while filling the midfield with quality. Eden Hazard drew most of the plaudits on his big return. He looked almost untouchable and combined with Morata throughout.
It felt like a big step for Chelsea as they look to reassert themselves as one of Europe’s elite once again. The Blues ruthlessly outmanoeuvred the home side like very few have been able to do in the past.
The first heavyweight contest of the Premier League awaits at the weekend, with Chelsea just three points behind Manchester City at the top of the table.