March 17, 2022
LILLE, France (Reuters) -Holders Chelsea made light of their off-pitch problems to reach the Champions League quarter-finals by beating Lille 2-1 away on Wednesday to complete a 4-1 aggregate victory.
The Premier League side, playing amid sanctions imposed on their Russian owner Roman Abramovich following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, eased through thanks to goals by Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta.
French champions Lille dominated for long spells and opened the scoring thanks to a Burak Yilmaz penalty in the opening half, but lacked precision up front and paid dearly for lapses in concentration.
Chelsea, operating on a special licence from the British government that has limited their spending and impacted their operations, showed great composure to ease into the last eight.
“Everyone is calm at the club. The club’s culture is about football. Football is the priority at Chelsea, that’s why we’re focused on what happens on the pitch,” Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel told French TV channel RMC Sport.
At their Pierre Mauroy stadium, Lille had made the better start to the match.
Jocelyn Gouvennec’s side put Chelsea on the back foot as Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante struggled to take control of the midfield.
Lille were rewarded in the 38th minute when they were awarded a penalty following a VAR review after a Jorginho handball in the area.
The 36-year-old Yilmaz, the third oldest scorer in the Champions League knockout stages after Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs, buried the spot-kick into the top corner to give the hosts a deserved lead and high hopes of an upset after losing the first leg 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Lille, who had not conceded a goal in their three Ligue 1 games since the first leg, let their guard down, however, and Chelsea punished them with their first shot on target as Pulisic collected a fine through ball from Jorginho to score with a low shot three minutes into first-half stoppage time.
Although they were hit by injuries which forced Sven Botman and Zeki Celik to leave the pitch, Lille applied more pressure after the break and Yilmaz wasted two clear chances.
Chelsea were far more ruthless and after 71 minutes Mason Mount’s cross bounced off Azpilicueta’s knee into the top corner to end Lille’s hopes of reaching the last eight.
The result left Lille frustrated after a good performance that ended in defeat.
“I’m frustrated by the result, and by the fact that we missed out on qualification,” said midfielder Amadou Onana.
“Congratulations to Chelsea, they were the better team.”
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)