The brilliant bicycle kick of Olivier Giroud broke the resistance of Atletico Madrid and secured Chelsea a vital away goal on Tuesday, a 1-0 victory giving Thomas Tuchel’s side a slim lead in the Champions League last 16.
The acrobatic strike of Giroud was originally ruled out for offside but stood after VAR proved that Mario Hermoso had the final touch, handing Atletico’s dreams of making the quarter-finals a major blow.
Giroud said, “I didn’t know what to think about the goal, I just focused on hitting the ball,” “I love an overhead kick and I was just pleased to see the ball hit the back of the net. I had no clue about being offside or not.”
Up until that point, Diego Simeone’s side had put on a generally disciplined defensive display, but Giroud’s moment of genius means they will have to score on 17 March in London if they are to prevent an early exit.
A worrying dip for Atletico, whose lead in LaLiga is also under pressure after one win in four matches, continues as well.
Simeone said, “If you’d said to me in September we’d lose this first leg 1-0 and be top of the league, I’d have signed for that for sure,”
“The results aren’t going for us so we have to work, work, work and work.”
Meanwhile, since Tuchel was named at the end of January, Chelsea has passed its biggest test, backing up a good run against lesser lights in the Premier League with a polished performance against one of Europe’s elite.
“We knew their strengths and dealt with them. We need to stay focused now and finish the job.”
Only the third Atletico conceded in 14 home legs of the Champions League knockout stages under Simeone was Giroud’s goal in the 68th minute, even though this fixture was at home only in name.
Restrictions levied by the Spanish government meant that, despite the return match remaining at Stamford Bridge in three weeks, the game had to be played in Bucharest instead of Madrid.
Tuchel acknowledged that the move gave his side an advantage, but on Monday, Simeone declined to complain, maintaining that he felt lucky to play “however and wherever that might be” during the pandemic.