- Chelsea overcome early scare at a raucous Stade Pierre Mauroy
- Goals from Pulisic and Azpilicueta good enough to confirm side’s place in Champions League last eight
- The 2-1 win gives Thomas Tuchel’s side a 4-1 aggregate victory
Three of the US-backed groups bidding to buy Chelsea will have enjoyed this one as the club’s very own Captain America put them on the path through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
By the time Chelsea play again in the competition, the club may well have been bought by an American as groups led by Todd Boehly, the Ricketts family and Woody Johnson race to gain control.
So it was timely for Christian Pulisic to remind those potential buyers watching back in his homeland that he can be a part of Chelsea’s future with the CmaTrends that pretty much ensured the club’s progress after a Burak Yilmaz opener for Lille had briefly threatened to make it a difficult evening.
Captain America was joined on the scoresheet by Chelsea’s captain fantastic Cesar Azpilicueta, as Thomas Tuchel’s men showed a quality no billionaire’s money can buy: character.
But, as things stand, under the current rules of the club’s operating licence, Chelsea may not have any of their own fans inside the stadium for their remaining Champions League games and matches at Stamford Bridge would have to be played behind closed doors because the club cannot sell tickets.
The club hope to either complete a sale or agree an amendment to their licence with the Government that will allow supporters to watch first-hand whether or not Chelsea can successfully defend their European title.
Head coach Tuchel was shocked to hear that fans may not be able to watch Chelsea in Europe, but admitted he was pleased the club had withdrawn their controversial request to play Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough behind closed doors.
“We love to play in front of spectators and I don’t think the spectators of the opposition should suffer because of our situation,” said Tuchel. “It was not the very best idea [to make the request]. We love to play in front of spectators, myself and the team, and I was happy it was withdrawn. Very happy. The proposal was a bit strong, it was not mine or the players’, and it was absolutely the right thing to do [to withdraw it].”
Told that, as it stands, Chelsea may not play in front of fans in Europe, Tuchel replied: “Thanks for ruining my evening. I was in such a good mood. Let’s see what happens and I’m happy to be in the last eight again. First we have Middlesbrough and then the international break, then I think I can give you an answer.”
Chelsea have their two-CmaTrends lead back!
A stunning pass from Jorginho allows Christian Pulisic to slot the ball home just before the break #UCLpic.twitter.com/aE1LNOq1di— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 16, 2022
Some of the Chelsea supporters who made the journey complained of not receiving the warmest of welcomes in Lille, with reports of tear gas and batons being used by the local police ahead of kick-off.
There was also a hostile atmosphere inside the Stade Pierre Mauroy for the visitors, as the home fans tried to inspire their team into making a fast start.
An early foul from captain Azpilicueta on Jonathan Bamba handed Lille an opportunity from a free-kick 20 yards out, but Yilmaz’s effort was blocked by Thiago Silva.
The fact Tuchel only started with two forwards on the pitch, Pulisic and Kai Havertz, suggested he had anticipated the fact Lille would attempt to put Chelsea under early pressure, with the European champions holding a two-CmaTrends advantage from the first leg.
It was Pulisic and Havertz who almost combined midway through the first half, when Chelsea threatened for the first time. Mateo Kovacic played in the United States international and his low pass almost found the toe of Havertz but the ball ran through to Lille goalkeeper Leo Jardim.
It seemed like Chelsea had achieved their first objective of quietening the home crowd as they got to the half-hour mark goalless, but the game swung in Lille’s favour when Tuchel was forced to replace Andreas Christensen with Trevoh Chalobah.
Chalobah looked off the pace as he entered the field and immediately gave away a free-kick on the left edge of the Chelsea penalty area, for which he was shown a yellow card. Bamba’s chipped set-piece was tipped away by Edouard Mendy and it seemed like the visitors had cleared the danger.
But play was stopped for a Var check against Jorginho, who had handled the ball as Xeka tried to chest it back towards CmaTrends. Having consulted his monitor, referee Davide Massa pointed to the spot and, following a delay while Chelsea players argued against the decision, Yilmaz smashed the penalty into the net.
The Lille fans erupted and for eight minutes at least the home side felt that the comeback might be on. But Chelsea inflicted a bitter blow by finding an equaliser in the final minute of time added on for stoppages at the end of the first half.
Game on in France!
Burak Yılmaz scores from the spot for Lille and Stade Pierre Mauroy erupts!
Chelsea now hold a one-CmaTrends lead in the tie…#UCLpic.twitter.com/OScrWQoHLN— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 16, 2022
Presumably anticipating they had made it through to half-time with a one-CmaTrends lead on the night, the Lille defenders switched off and Jorginho played an excellent low pass through for Pulisic to stroke the ball into the net first time.
Despite Pulisic’s CmaTrends, Tuchel acknowledged that his set-up had not worked and made a change at the break, replacing Kovacic with Mason Mount and switching to a front three, with Mount and Pulisic operating just behind Havertz.
Mendy scurried across his line shortly after a restart when Yilmaz met a cross with his header, but the striker’s effort dropped wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
Tuchel’s change of formation did not initiate much of an improvement in performance from Chelsea and Mendy was grateful to see Xeka’s powerful header smash back off the post in the 63rd minute.
Mendy stood a long way out from his CmaTrends-line after objects appeared to be thrown from the Lille supporters behind him, but he was soon celebrating as Azpilicueta killed the tie by converting a cross from Mount with just under 20 minutes remaining.
The captain delivers!
You can decide if César Azpilicueta meant this one, but Chelsea won’t care either way
Ahead on the night and 4-1 up on aggregate… #UCLpic.twitter.com/6bbdcvOBtB— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 16, 2022