Giroud Stunner Breaks Down Atletico's Wall To Put Chelsea In The Box Seat

The Frenchman's fantastic overhead kick gives the Blues a 1-0 advantage
22:04, 23 Feb 2021

The ball seemed to hang in the air for an absolute age. For a good hour this game between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea in the last 16 of the Champions League had dragged, bitty and niggly, never settling. But it suddenly came to life. Olivier Giroud watched it climb and fall down again. As soon as he moved an inch you could see what he was going to do, he was going to perform an overhead kick. He did so with aplomb to beat the sprawling Jan Oblak. 

Then time stood still again. This time, it was VAR. We waited and we waited and we waited as Felix Brych strolled and talked, talked and strolled. Then, Goal Chelsea! Cesar Azpilicueta roared with delight and Giroud was surrounded, taking the adulation of his teammates. 

Chelsea had got their away goal. Had they not, it would have been advantage Atletico in the return leg. New boss Thomas Tuchel gave the Frenchman a big pat on the back, for he knew how vital his goal was... for their European campaign, but also for the steady progression of his own Blues career. The German has started well and this keeps his team well on track.

Atletico look to strangle the life out of teams. At one stage, the Liga leaders had a flat back six. They aren’t breached often. Chelsea knew they had to score, or the Spanish side would hold all the cards. In the second leg they could sit and wait, swarm the Blues and then hit them on the counter like a cobra waiting in the long grass to nail its prey.

Timo Werner has toiled this season and was forced to toil some more in Bucharest on Tuesday evening. Perhaps being coached by his compatriot will help him shine, but here he again drew a blank. The German stung the palms of Oblak before seeing a ferocious effort tipped onto the side netting. He tried but it wasn’t looking like enough. That’s when Giroud’s sheer genius and audacity came to play. To even think about pulling off such a strike is one thing, to do it is another. The fact it was a winner against the brick wall of Atletico made for an even bigger ‘Wow!’ as it hit the net.

That’s now six goals for Giroud in his last six Champions League games. At 34, he is still one of the most technically gifted and effective marksmen in the game.

"I didn't know what to think about the goal. I just tried to focus on hitting the ball well," the scorer told BT Sport after the game. "I love overhead kicks. I was pleased to see the ball in the back of the net!"

Tuchel, meanwhile, guffawed as the reporter said to him, "Thomas, you've been asking for a bit more efficiency from your attackers..."

"So we got a bicycle kick!" he beamed. "What a way to win a game. Maybe today, it was clear that you need a situation like this to unlock this game. You cannot fall asleep in ball possession, ball possession means nothing against Atletico. In general it means nothing but especially against a team like Atletico because they are ready to suffer. They're ready to defend with eight people in the box.

"It was clear it would be very complicated to find solutions. We had to accept it and not lose our nerve, not to force things were it's not possible to open up spaces, so patience was needed, concentration.

"We controlled the whole match and kept a clean sheet which is amazing because this always gives you the possibility to win with one goal." 

For some, this game will have been boring. For others, witnessing a defensive Atletico masterclass is as beautiful and enjoyable as watching Tiki-Taka. Whatever your take, Giroud’s stunning strike will have made you gasp in awe. And that’s why we love football, because at any moment, even if you’ve started to nod off at a lack of action, it can take your breath away.

Chelsea got their goal which will allow Tuchel to show his new employers his tactical acumen. If he gets the better of Diego Simeone and reaches the Champions League quarter-finals it will be a huge feather in his new blue cap, and, thanks to Giroud, he has got half the job done.

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