Olivier Giroud’s brilliant overhead kick earned Chelsea a precious 1-0 win ‘away’ to Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 ties in Bucharest.
A determined, diligent Atleti defence was always going to need something special to be breached and Giroud provided that with his 40th goal for Chelsea, one which has them firmly in the ascendancy ahead of next month’s second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea dominated possession throughout this game but found themselves crashing against an Atletico defense that at times seemed to be lining up as a 6-3-1, leaving few if any spaces for the Blues to attack. If anyone looked like finding a way through this most obdurate of rearguards it was Mason Mount, who twice teed up Timo Werner to go close in the first half.
Atletico threatened in patches at the other end but their best chances throughout the first half came more from Chelsea’s mistakes than their own quality, Edouard Mendy’s dawdling on the ball nearly allowed the dangerous Joao Felix to steal in.
In truth, Atleti looked like holding on to a 0-0 draw that would have suited their needs more than Chelsea’s until Mario Hermoso deflected a 50:50 challenge with Mount into the path of Giroud, whose spectacular bicycle kick put Chelsea in the driving seat of this tie after a lengthy VAR review confirmed the Frenchman had indeed been onside.
Meanwhile, Robert Lewandowski became the Champions League’s third top scorer of all time as holders Bayern Munich put one foot in the quarter-finals with a 4-1 thrashing of Lazio in their last-16 first leg in Rome on Tuesday.
The Polish striker pounced on a poorly judged back pass after nine minutes to steer in his 72nd goal in the competition.
In doing so, he surpassed former Real Madrid striker Raul in the competition scoring charts to reach a total only bettered by Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, with 134 goals, and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, with 119.
Bayern’s 17-year-old midfielder Jamal Musiala doubled their advantage with a well-taken strike that made him the youngest English player to score in the competition.
Leroy Sane tapped in a third before the break and a Francesco Acerbi own goal stretched the visitors’ advantage early in the second half, but Joaquin Correa soon pulled one back for Lazio, whose unbeaten run in the competition came crashing to an end.
“We attacked Lazio from the start,” Bayern captain Manuel Neuer told Sky Sport.
“I liked our intensity, we showed our best face, different from what we’ve shown recently in the Bundesliga. We’ve certainly made our lives easier for the second leg.”
It was an 18th consecutive match without defeat for Bayern in the Champions League, 17 of which have been victories, leaving the German champions in a dominant position ahead of the second leg in Munich on March 17.