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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Stade Pierre Mauroy

Blues into Champions League quarter-finals after coming from behind to beat Lille 2-1

By Paul Lagan at Stade Pierre Mauroy

Lille 1 v Chelsea 2 (1-4)

Christian Pulisic restored the balance of the tie with a first-half stoppage equaliser, that allowed Chelsea to take control of this feisty Champions League round of 16 match and run out 2-1 winners on the night and 4-1 on aggregate.

Chelsea hoped some of the dark arts of defending, time-wasting and fouls would see them cruise through with their 2-0 first leg lead intact. But the French outfit, while limited in ability lacked no little desire and were rewarded for their high-energy efforts with a penalty on 39 minutes.

But the US winger Pulisic’s equaliser with the last kick of the half, deflated the home side.

With 20 minutes left, Cesar Azpilicueta popped up at the other end of the pitch and crashed home the goal that gave Chelsea the lead and the match.

With a fanatical support behind, them Lille were desperate for an early goal to put pressure on the Blues.

The west Londoners were fully prepared to play the holding ball game.

But when they lost it after eight minutes, Jonathan Bamba tried a long-range effort that took a deflection off Thiago silva for a corner.

A needless foul on the edge of the penalty area allowed Burak Yilmaz to try a direct shot. His effort was powerful enough, but too high, and Mendy watched it gleefully zip over him and the crossbar.

The Blues were happy to break the game up, commit irritating simple fouls, anything to pass a few more seconds.

Andreas Christensen, who earlier suffered a back injury while jumping for the ball, continued to struggle. Eventually, on 32 minutes, he was replaced by Trevoh Chalobah.

The defender was on the pitch less than 30 seconds when he was yellow-carded for a foul close to the edge of the penalty area and byline.

From the kick there was a claim for a penalty for Lille on 35 minutes when Jorginho appeared to hit the ball with his arm.

VAR told the referee to look at the monitor.

As always in these instances, the referee Davide Massa from Italy, changed his mind and awarded a spot kick.

Up stepped Yilmaz who thumped the ball high and wide of Mendy to reduce the deficit to one goal.

As the 2,500 Chelsea fans chanted from the top of the stand to bolster their players confidence: “We know what we are, Champions of Europe, we know what we are,” the Blues struck.

In added time at the end of the first half, inexplicably, Lille dropped off the pace, allowing Chelsea to bring the ball forward unimpeded.

With some razor-like precision passing, Jorginho cut the Lille defence apart giving the ball to in-running Pulisic.

The wide-man still had work to do, but he arrowed the ball across low Leo Jardim’s body, and it slotted neatly into his far-netting to make it 1-1 on the night.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel decided to take off Mateo Kovacic and replaced him at half-time with Mason Mount.

The energy and intensity was not in evidence from the home side after the break, giving Chelsea greater confidence to continue with the possession game where possible and disrupt play where necessary.

But like the Chelsea goal, the Blues went to sleep allowing a cross from their left to reach Xeka. He got his head to it but the ball bounced off Mendy’s right post.

That gave the home side the fillip they needed as they started to press higher in search of a second goal.

But instead the game turned on its head.

Again a period of excellent possession of the ball by Chelsea, which was pinged across the pitch several times, eventually found Azpilicueta on 71 minutes and he smashed the ball home from close range to give the visitors a 2-1 lead and the 4-1 aggregate lead.

Tuchel then brought on Romelu Lukaku and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, with Jorginho and Pulisic making way.

The German Tuchel used his substitutions to good effect in the time wasting department, he them brought on Hakim Ziyech, with Havertz exiting the pitch.

The game was all but over, the home crowd continued to drone on, but with ever decreasing volume and intensity.

They knew it was all over, so did the players and soon the referee blew his whistle to confirm it.

Teams: Chelsea, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Silva, Christensen, Alonso, Kante , Kovacic, Jorginho, Pulisic, Havertz

Subs: Kepa, Lukaku, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Bettinelli, Mount, Ziyech, Kenedy, Sarr Vale

Lille, Jardim, Çelik, Fonte, Botman, Djaló, Bamba, Xeka, André, Gudmundsson, Yilmaz, David

Subs: Grbic, Ben Arfa, Lihadji, Angel Gomes, Weah, Zhegrova, Onana, Bradaric, Raux

Referee: Davide Massa


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