Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

A Giroud special, Bavarian brilliance, methodical City and a determined Madrid!

Posted on 25 February 2021 by Jeremy Addley

Atlético Madrid 0:1 Chelsea (Arena Nationala, Romania)

In what is fast becoming the most common fixture on the European calendar, a revived Chelsea side looked to topple the La Liga leaders.

The first half was the epitome of Atletico in the Champions League as Chelsea struggled to break down a dogged defence marshalled by former Manchester City centre back, Stefan Savic.

The first half yielded only two clear chances. First, Frenchmen Thomas Lemar clipped one wide of Edouard Mendy’s righthand post after Luis Suarez whipped a beautiful ball across the Chelsea six-yard box.

Timo Werner produced the best chance of a lacklustre first half after spinning away from Savic in the box and lashing a shot to Jan Oblak’s near post, only for the Slovenian to palm it away for a corner.

The second half followed the same script as the first as a torrent of Chelsea attacks were repelled by the red and white wall.

The breaking point finally arrived after 68 minutes. A failed Mario Hermoso clearance came to Olivier Giroud, who produced an outrageous overhead kick into the bottom corner. Oblak had no chance to save it.

The final 20 minutes of the game saw Atletico try to generate consistent attacks but these, however, would prove in vain as a stubborn Chelsea midfield began to take over the middle of the park.

This was likely the biggest win yet of the Thomas Tuchel era and it left the German in a cheerful mood as he spoke to John Cross of the Daily Mirror.

“I’m super happy that we had such a big reward,” Tuchel said. He added that his side had put in a great team performance against a resolute Atletico defence.

Lazio 1:4 Bayern Munich (Stadio Olimpico, Italy)

After the recent results of both respective clubs, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this would be an even tie. The Bavarian giants however, live for the Champions League lights.

It would take only eight minutes for Bayern to silence all the doubters. Robert Lewandowski pounced on a horrendous backpass from Mateo Musacchio that stopped short of Pepe Reina on the water-soaked pitch.

Jamal Musiala doubled the lead after 24 minutes. A flicked pass from Leon Goretzka set Musiala up on the edge of the Lazio penalty area and the England-U21 international placed a calm finish into the bottom corner.

Former Manchester City winger, Leroy Sane, added the third just before half-time. A lovely winding run from Kingsley Coman culminated in forcing a save from Reina only for the German to tap it home.

The desperate Lazio performance was summed up with the fourth goal. Francesco Acerbi slid the ball into his own net after trying to cut off a Sane cross that came from a Lazio corner only seconds earlier.

Lazio would grab a consolation goal through Argentine Joaquin Correa just before the 50-minute mark.

With players still to return for the reigning European champions, the Bavarian beast appears well set to defend their crown.

Borussia Mönchengladbach 0:2 Manchester City (Ferenc Puskás Stadium, Hungary)

Pep Guardiola’s side have become the suffocation specialists. With Gladbach trying to play from the back, a constant City press saw many of their first-half chances come from forced turnovers.

The first sign of the pressure beginning to mount came after 26 minutes when England winger Raheem Sterling burst into the penalty area only to be met by a last-ditch slide tackle from Ramy Bensebaini.

The City captain couldn’t believe a penalty wasn’t awarded but VAR confirmed the Algerian managed to get a slight touch on the ball before contact.

Moments later City would grab their opener, courtesy of a Christoph Kramer failed clearance. A delicious cross from João Cancelo to the back post showed off the City Portuguese connection as Bernardo Silva headed home past a helpless Yann Sommer.

Despite the difficult first half, the German side repeated many of their mistakes after the break.

A determination to play from the back gifted Gabriel Jesus a chance to double the lead. The Brazilian failed to take full advantage, however, as his meandering run allowed Nico Elvedi a chance to commit a superb covering challenge to deny a certain goal.

A swift Gladbach counter almost caught the City rearguard asleep as an audacious backheel flick from Alassane Pléa came dangerously close to nestling in the bottom corner.

City’s second once again came courtesy of their Portuguese connection. In similar fashion to the opener, a Cancelo cross was met by a Silva header directed across the six-yard box, allowing Jesus to tap it home.

Gladbach were almost able to flip the script of the game right at the death. A loose Rodri pass allowed Hannes Wolf to go one-on-one with Ederson, only to hit it straight at the Brazilian.

Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Guardiola appeared less than happy with the full-time result.

“Unfortunately we were not clinical enough,” he said. He added: “It’s something we have to improve in this competition.”

Atalanta 0:1 Real Madrid (Stadio di Bergamo, Italy)

An injury-ravaged Real Madrid traveled to face one of the competition’s deadliest attacking outfits.

Any hopes of an Atlanta victory, however, were seemingly dashed only 17 minutes in.

A beautiful through ball from Vinícius Júnior set Ferland Mendy in on goal before being clattered into by Remo Freuler. Tobias Stieler took no hesitation in producing the red card. Advantage Madrid.

20 minutes of relentless Madrid pressure produced the first big chance of the game. A dinked cross into the area from Luka Modrić found Isco who, after twisting and turning, had his effort blocked.

Right before the half-time whistle Pierlugi Gollini produced a remarkable reflex save to deny a Raphael Varane flicked header.

Madrid came straight out of the blocks in the second half and Modrić came close when his deflected effort dribbled past the Atalanta post.

Minutes later Vinícius Jr squandered a great chance from only eight yards out by flicking an effort over the bar.

It appeared that no matter what Madrid threw at Atalanta, the home side would repel their efforts.

However, the Madrid pressure eventually told five minutes from full time as Mendy curled a right-footed shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards.

Despite the last-minute heartbreak, Atalanta will feel more than confident in turning around the tie in a fortnight.