Chelsea eased into the Champions League quarter-finals with a comfortable win over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.
The Blues carried a 1-0 lead into the second leg and were braced for a testing evening against Diego Simeone’s men.
What they encountered was anything but, as Chelsea zipped the ball freely round their Spanish counterparts and had the tie virtually wrapped up as soon as Hakim Ziyech found the net after 34 minutes.
Atletico failed to close Chelsea’s space down all night and were punished when they were caught by a swift counter attack just moments after the visitors had been denied a penalty.
The trio of summer acquisitions: Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Ziyech, combined to double Chelsea’s lead on aggregate, and from there they never looked back.
Stefan Savic was sent off somewhat harshly late on for a fairly innocuous elbow to Antonio Rudiger’s chest as Atletico sunk without a fight.
Emerson then came off the bench to score a breakaway goal in injury-time to compound Atletico’s misery and cap off the win.
Here are the talking points from Stamford Bridge.
1. Lucky escape
Cesar Azpilicueta will be counting his blessings after getting away with a blatant foul which could have been costly for Chelsea.
A short backpass from the Blues’ skipper when the game was still at 0-0 allowed Yannick Carrasco in on goal, before Azpilicueta’s not-so-subtle arm round the winger’s waist sent him tumbling to the turf.
Whether it was outside the box or not it was a clear impediment, with Azpilicueta last man, but referee Daniele Orsato either didn’t see it, or saw no issue.
A VAR review would certainly have concluded otherwise, but UEFA’s team did not consider it necessary for Orsato to evaluate the incident, allowing Azpilicueta off the hook scot-free.
2. New recruits assemble
Much has been made of Chelsea’s misfiring summer signings but Roman Abramovich will likely have let out a wry smile as three of their new recruits combined to score the opening goal.
The visitors were always going to leave gaps as they looked to level the tie and Chelsea’s front three took full advantage, breaking quickly from the edge of their own box to score seconds later at the other end.
Kai Havertz was the pivotal link, outmuscling his marker to clip the ball in behind for Timo Werner to race away, whose squared cross into the box was then finished first time by the unmarked Hakim Ziyech.
Atleti keeper Jan Oblak should have perhaps done better, but there wasn’t too much his teammates could do to thwart Chelsea’s blistering attack, spearheaded by their trio of new arrivals.
3. Kante in cruise control
When he’s in this kind of form there are few better central midfielders in world football than N’Golo Kante.
After a prolonged dip in the standards we expect from him, the Frenchman has had a spring in his step again since the arrival of Thomas Tuchel.
And he produced the kind of display against Atletico which perfectly showcased his tireless dynamism and composure when on the ball. He was immense.
Mateo Kovacic put in a tidy performance alongside him, and the pair had the game by the scruff of the neck from the get-go.
Atletico’s pairing of Saul Niguez and Koke simply couldn’t get near them as Chelsea’s duo made the ball do the work and picked passes at will.
The team in front of them hardly put up much of a challenge, and there will be bigger tests to come, but it bodes well for Chelsea.
4. Rudiger wins Suarez battle
Few can deny Luis Suarez is having a superb season over in Spain, but in Europe things haven’t quite worked out, and this showing suggests time may eventually be catching up with him.
The Uruguayan was ineffective all evening – a sentence barely ever uttered about him in games of this magnitude. But it was plain to see.
Suarez just doesn’t quite have the legs or that bit of sharpness that has served him so well in the past.
He was tasked with running in behind Chelsea – not exactly his strong point anyway – but Antonio Rudiger hardly gave him a sniff, before the No.9 was eventually hauled off before the hour mark.
Credit must go to the Blues’ defender, who was first to everything, bullying Atletico’s forwards during an excellent, commanding performance.
Yet even Rudiger will probably be aware: he was up against a Suarez whose best years are now sadly behind him.
5. Chelsea’s credentials
As much as the knock-out rounds have already started, arguably its from the quarter-finals that the competition really steps up a notch.
Chelsea may have done what was necessary to beat an Atletico side who were disappointing, though take nothing away from the Blues for overcoming a tricky tie against the La Liga leaders with such distinction.
Thoughts now turn to the next round and how far Chelsea could go – and they’ll be rank outsiders, understandably.
But based on this performance they’ve got plenty about them to spring an upset in the latter rounds.
The back three really suited Chelsea, with Tuchel’s side dominating Atletico from start to finish, pressing aggressively all over the field and breaking quickly, breaching their opponents defensive lines effortlessly at times.
And to think they were so comfortable with the likes of Mason Mount, Thiago Silva and Andreas Christensen still to return.
In a competition where anything can happen, under a boss who reached the final last season, don’t rule them out.