Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Giroud overhead kick lifts Chelsea over Atletico



Giroud overhead kick lifts Chelsea over Atletico

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Chelsea’s striker Olivier Giroud (left) scores during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match against Club Atletico de Madrid at the Arena Nationala stadium in Bucharest on Tuesday. AFP

Giroud overhead kick lifts Chelsea over Atletico

Olivier Giroud’s magnificent bicycle kick broke Atletico Madrid’s resistance and earned Chelsea a crucial away goal on February 23, a 1-0 victory giving Thomas Tuchel’s side a slender advantage in the Champions League last 16.

Giroud’s acrobatic strike was initially ruled out for offside but stood after VAR showed Mario Hermoso had got the final touch, delivering a huge blow to Atletico’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

“I didn’t know what to think about the goal, I just focused on hitting the ball,” said Giroud. “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.”

Diego Simeone’s side had put on a typically disciplined defensive performance until that point but Giroud’s moment of genius means they will have to score in London on March 17 if they are to avoid an early exit.

It also continues a worrying dip for Atletico, whose lead in La Liga is also under threat after one win in four matches.

“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,” said Simeone.

“The results aren’t going for us so we have to work, work and work.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, passed their biggest test since Tuchel was appointed at the end of January, backing up a strong run against lesser lights in the Premier League with a polished display against one of Europe’s elite.

“We knew their strengths and dealt with them,” said Giroud. “We need to stay focused now and finish the job.”

Giroud’s goal in the 68th minute was only the third Atletico have conceded in 14 home legs of the Champions League knockout stages under Simeone, even if this fixture was at home only in name.

Restrictions imposed by the Spanish government meant the game had to be played in Bucharest instead of Madrid, despite the return match remaining at Stamford Bridge in three weeks’ time.

Tuchel admitted the switch gave his side an advantage but Simeone refused to complain on February 22, insisting he felt fortunate to play during the pandemic, “however and wherever that might be”.

Their defeat makes it three home losses out of three for Spain’s teams in the Champions League last 16 so far, after Barcelona were thrashed by Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla were beaten by Borussia Dortmund last week.

Callum Hudson-Odoi started for Chelsea, despite Tuchel criticising the 20-year-old’s attitude against Southampton on February 20.

Atletico started with Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa but an attacking line-up took up a typically defensive shape, a six-man wall quickly forming in front of Chelsea in the opening stages.

The first half was tight, each side able only to create openings but failing to find the pass to make a chance.

Edouard Mendy’s heavy touch in the opening minutes almost gave the chasing Saul Niguez a tap-in while Timo Werner’s angled shot was saved by Jan Oblak and Suarez miskicked at the near post.

Chelsea looked most dangerous down the flanks, where Marcos Alonso and Hudson-Odoi pushed Atletico back. Atletico had space on the break but lacked the precision to capitalise.

Felix sprung into life early in the second half, feeding Thomas Lemar and then meeting the Frenchman’s cross with an acrobatic volley that flew over.

The game looked destined to finish goalless only for Atletico to briefly lose shape, allowing the instinctive Giroud to take advantage.

Alonso had raced away from Marcos Llorente down the left and his cross was diverted backwards to Giroud, who brilliantly bicycle-kicked into the corner, but looked offside, only for the replay to show it was Atletico’s Hermoso who had given him the assist.

The goal stood and Chelsea’s players celebrated, seemingly as surprised as anyone and delighted with a precious advantage.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and