Winning away at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League is more rare than a first-team appearance for Danny Drinkwater.
Diego Simeone has built a formidable side who don’t appreciate being shown up on home turf. Since 2016, they have lost just one home game in the Champions League, at the hands of Chelsea in September 2017.
Antonio Conte took his reigning Premier League champions to the newly-built Wanda Metropolitano knowing full well that an English side had never won away at Atletico in Europe’s premier club competition. Of their previous 23 home games, Simeone’s side had won 18, drawn four and lost just one. 16 of their previous 19 games ended with Atletico’s opponents failing to score.
If you haven’t clocked it yet, going away to Atletico is one of the toughest things imaginable in football, yet Chelsea rocked up and put in one of the most dominant displays in recent European memory.
As soon as the team sheets were revealed, you could tell that Chelsea meant business. Cesc Fabregas was deployed in an advanced role over the likes of Willian or Pedro, signalling Conte’s intent to dominate possession in the kind of way Atletico usually do.
That’s exactly what we saw from Chelsea, who fizzed the ball around the final third with terrifying efficiency as they sought to pick a way through Europe’s meanest defence. Alvaro Morata dragged wide early on and Eden Hazard hit the post, injecting a sense of fear in Atletico that they had never really felt.
Whenever Atletico broke, the duo of Tiemoue Bakayoko and the utterly astounding N’Golo Kante neutralised their threat. Los Rojiblancos simply couldn’t get through, and they would never have found the back of the net had it not been for a moment of madness from David Luiz.
With the score at 0-0 heading into the break, Luiz mindlessly decided to hold on to Lucas Hernandez in the penalty area and refused to let go, offering up the easiest penalty you’re ever going to see. Antoine Griezmann stepped up and fired home with what felt like his only shot on target.
Despite trailing at the break, Chelsea never looked nervous. They knew they were the better team, and it was just a matter of time before they got the result they deserved.
15 minutes into the second half, Chelsea were level. The brilliant Hazard whipped in a cross to Morata, who nodded past Jan Oblak with the kind of perfect header needed to beat the best goalkeeper on the planet. Chelsea were purring.
Fabregas could have scored. Morata could have scored. The chances were flooding in at an unhealthy rate, but it looked like Chelsea were going to be frustrated. They had been so good, but the clock ticked over to 93 minutes and the score was level. Atletico thought they were going to survive.
Then came Michy Batshuayi.
The Belgian found himself unmarked in the box to tap home a cross from Marcos Alonso with literally the last kick of the game, sealing what was arguably the best European performance from any Chelsea side since the west Londoners claimed the trophy in 2012.
From start to finish, it was utter perfection. Hazard was unplayable. Kante was outrageous. Morata looked hungry. Atletico simply could not contain that level of brilliance – something we don’t often get the chance to say.
Conte’s time at Chelsea didn’t end on a high note, but this game will never be forgotten. It was the kind of game fans might never get to see again.