MADRID: Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi came off the bench to snatch a 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid on Wednesday with the last kick of the game, taking Antonio Conte’s side top of Champions League Group C.
France international Antoine Griezmann rammed a penalty beyond former Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to give the home side a barely deserved lead in the 40th minute, scoring the first European goal at their new stadium after striking the first Liga goal there this month.
Former Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, who also spent time in Atletico’s youth system, pulled Chelsea level by glancing in Eden Hazard’s cross in the 60th minute after the visitors had failed to make their first-half dominance count.
Batshuayi replaced Morata with seven minutes remaining and inflicted a first home defeat on Atletico since September, 2015 by turning in a Marcos Alonso cutback from close range deep into stoppage-time.
“It’s very difficult when Atletico score [first] to come back, despite this we deserved to win, we continued to play with good personality, we kept our head on the pitch in every moment,” Chelsea coach Conte told a news conference.
“We must be pleased with the performance and overall the personality we showed. I always tell my players that it doesn’t change when you play at home or away, you have to play with the same personality and desire to play and try to deserve to win.”
Atletico coach Diego Simeone has likened his side’s new home to the Circus Maximus in Rome and the club’s famously vociferous fans made a noise fitting of the biggest game in the stadium’s short existence, but Chelsea soon calmed the crowd.
Hazard, without a goal in the Champions League since March 2015, was Chelsea’s chief creator, dashing through the middle to lay the ball off for Morata to screw wide and then hitting the woodwork himself with a ferocious long-range strike.
“Chelsea felt more comfortable than us and won the game deservedly,” said Atletico coach Simeone.
“They were superior tactically and physically. They are a very competitive team, they showed more maturity than us and we have to congratulate them.”
Atletico struggled to get into Chelsea’s half but capitalised from their first real foray forward. A deflected shot from Saul Niguez earned a corner from which David Luiz hauled Lucas Hernandez to the floor, leaving Griezmann to score a third goal in four games.
Simeone’s side could have grabbed a second on the cusp of halftime when Courtois could only hold Koke’s stinging shot but Saul slotted the rebound just wide of the near post.
A two-goal deficit would have been grossly unfair on Conte’s adventurous side, who also had the better of the second half.
Morata wasted a chance to strike again when he skipped towards goal unchallenged, scuffing the ball wide of Jan Oblak’s goal, but Belgian international Batshuayi needed just one chance to grab the win that was as dramatic as it was deserved.