Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea able to draw some comfort despite missed opportunities

Chelsea 1 Atletico 1

By Matt McGeehan

Chelsea finished second in Champions League Group C after rallying to draw 1-1 with Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues, already through, needed a win to secure top spot, but fell behind to Saul Niguez’s header as Atletico sought the victory they needed to have any chance of progressing.

Chelsea had chances, with Jan Oblak frustrating Alvaro Morata and Andreas Christensen heading wide, before Eden Hazard’s run forced Stefan Savic to turn the ball into his own net.

Substitute Willian might have won it for Chelsea, who instead had to settle for a draw which saw them finish behind Roma on head-to-head records.

Roma’s 1-0 win over Qarabag means Atletico and former Chelsea striker Diego Costa will play Europa League football in 2018.

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill  said: “We more than deserved the win, we had some fantastic chances. How have we not won?

“You can pick holes in any goal you concede but overall our performance was good. Jan Oblak was fantastic today.”

Eden Hazard added: “Their goalkeeper was on fire. We should top the group but it’s a good draw, Atletico are very strong. We are happy.”

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte wanted a win to secure top spot, while nothing less than a victory would do for Diego Simeone’s visitors, who won 3-1 here in April 2014 to reach the final of this competition.

Atletico, who reached at least the quarter-finals in the last four seasons, also needed Qarabag to win at Roma.

Throughout the match Conte and Simeone gesticulated, barked orders and kicked every ball. The intensity of the match almost matched the touchline action. Davide Zappacosta, on the left to give Marcos Alonso a rest, cut in and fired over after two minutes before former Chelsea striker Fernando Torres’ shot deflected over off Cesar Azpilicueta.

Former Real striker Morata and Hazard, who has been heavily linked with Atletico’s city rivals, combined to devastating effect in the reverse fixture in September. And the pair showed signs of doing so once again. Hazard was chopped down with regularity by cynical tackles, but kept running at the visitors.

Morata had three chances in quick succession. First Hazard left Christensen’s pass and Morata turned and shot wide from the edge of the area.

Next Morata prodded at goal from Victor Moses’ cross and Oblak saved. The goalkeeper next flapped away a shot at an acute angle from Chelsea’s Spain striker. Oblak then scrambled Zappacosta’s deflected shot around the post. Christensen had a header saved from Hazard’s cross before Oblak denied Morata again after Hazard’s run and deflected the shot wide.

Atletico had opportunities, too. Filipe Luis, who spent one season at Stamford Bridge, hit the post from 25 yards. Koke headed the rebound straight at Thibaut Courtois.

Courtois was beaten when Chelsea old boy Torres headed Koke’s corner on to the far post for Niguez to divert the ball in with a free header. Atletico had the advantage they needed. Unfortunately for Simeone’s men, Roma had taken the lead over Qarabag moments before.

Oblak saved with his feet from substitute Pedro and then denied Morata, again, after Christensen had headed Fabregas’ cross wide.

The Denmark defender should have equalised, but Chelsea did level soon afterwards following another direct run by Hazard. His shot deflected off Savic and into the net.

Oblak denied Morata in a one-on-one situation soon afterwards before Willian fired off target with the goal gaping.

Substitute Michy Batshuayi shot wide across goal and there was no repeat of his late heroics in Madrid.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill, Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko (Pedro 64), Zappacosta (Willian 73), Hazard, Morata (Batshuayi 81).

Subs not used: Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Drinkwater.

Atletico: Oblak, Gimenez (Vietto 79), Savic, Hernandez, Filipe Luis, Partey, Gabi (Correa 79), Niguez, Koke, Torres (Carrasco 57), Griezmann.

Subs not used: Moya, Godin, Vrsaljko, Gameiro.

Man of the match: Jan Oblak

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Danny Makkelie (Curacao)

Belfast Telegraph

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