Chelsea missed their chance to clinch top spot in Champions League group C as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge. Roma’s 1-0 win over FK Qarabag was enough for them to clinch first place in the group, meaning the Blues will potentially face a tricky last-16 tie in the New Year.
Results elsewhere in the Champions League mean Chelsea can only draw Besiktas, Paris Saint Germain or Barcelona in the next round, meaning Antonio Conte may have a few sleepless night before Monday’s draw.
Chelsea lineup makes attacking intentions clear
Chelsea signalled their intent by naming an attacking team featuring Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard. Marcos Alonso was the major absentee with Davide Zappacosta being entrusted with a left-wing-back role and Victor Moses keeping his place at his now accustomed position of right-wing-back.
Atletico haven’t been a force in this season’s Champions League and it showed in the opening exchanges of the match as the Blues dominated the play with an Alvaro Morata curler coming closest to breaking the deadlock. The Blues created their best chance of the half in the 24th minute as Moses stormed down the right before squaring to Morata, who could only shoot straight at the impressive Jan Oblak from ten yards out.
Davide Zappacosta put in an all-action performance on the left and he cut inside to good effect to test Oblak in the 37th minute as the Blues started to take a hold in the game.
Counter-attack dominates early in second stanza
In the second half, Atletico came out with more intent; Antoine Greizmann tested Courtois from distance with a well-struck free kick but Chelsea continued to look dangerous on the break with Andreas Christensen heading straight at Oblak when he could have perhaps done better, while Hazard embarked on one of his trademark jinking runs before clipping the ball agonisingly wide.
The Blues were starting to turn the screw with Morata bringing the best out of Oblak once again before former Chelsea man Felipe Luiz’s rasping strike struck the post. Then, in true Simeone fashion, Atletico countered devastatingly to score the opening goal of the game.
Griezmann’s corner was flicked on at the near post and Saul Niguez reacted quickest to escape Tiemoue Bakayoko’s attention and head home past a stranded Courtois to give the Spaniards hope.
Pedro and Willian were brought on for Chelsea as the goal hunt continued and their direct running caused problems; Morata headed over once more and Pedro almost engineered an own goal after a mazy run down the left.
Blues’ persistence pays off
The Blues’ persistence eventually paid off as Eden Hazard drove at the Atletico defence in the 75th minute before seeing his strike deflect in off Stefan Savic to restore parity and give the Blues hope.
Chelsea couldn’t find the second goal they needed to top the group and with Roma winning, their prospective path to Champions League glory now looks very tricky.
Chelsea face West Ham next in the Premier League, whilst both sides will be hanging on for their respective draws on Monday afternoon with Atletico resigned to Europa League football in the new year.