Chelsea 1-1 Atlético Madrid: Antonio Conte's men secure a place in the Champions League knock-out stages

Chelsea and Atlético Madrid shared the points at Stamford Bridge in a match which gave more than it offered

Chelsea 1-1 Atlético Madrid: Antonio Conte's men secure a place in the Champions League knock-out stages
Eden Hazard proved too hot to handle for most of the night against Atletico Madrid (Getty Images: Clive Rose)
Chelsea
1 1
Atlético Madrid
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta (Willian, min. 73), Fabregas, Kante, Bakayoko (Pedro, min. 64), Moses; Hazard; Morata (Batshuayi, min 81).
Atlético Madrid: Oblak; Gimenez (Vietto, min. 79), Savic, Lucas, Filipe Luis; Partey, Gabi (Correa, min. 78), Saul Niguez, Koke; Torres (Carrasco, min. 57), Griezmann.
SCORE: 0-1, min. 56, Saul. 1-1, min 75, Savic (OG).
REFEREE: Danny Makkelie (NED). Booked: Lucas (min. 16), Zappacosta (min. 52).

Chelsea booked their place in the group stages tonight as they held Atletico Madrid to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

On a night in which the result was largely immaterial, it was only ever going to be the case that the game turned into a thriller.

With Atletico Madrid needing a series of improbable events to make it through to the knock-out stages of the competition and Chelsea, in turn, only needing a draw, the less-irresistable-force-this-season that is Atletico came across an unstoppable object in Antonio Conte's Chelsea.

Despite the visitors going ahead early on the second half through Saul Niguez, Chelsea pulled levelled in the 75th minute through a Stefan Savic own goal.

The result sees Chelsea finish in second place in Group C behind a Roma side who managed to beat Chelsea in Rome after drawing at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea in control

With Antonio Conte's team only realistically needing a draw to guarantee their place in the knock-out stages of the tournament, the Italian was able to control the game far more than his counterpart, Diego Simeone.

Setting his team up deep with an eye to the counter-attack, Chelsea's manager chose to field a three-man midfield allowing him to bring in the more defensively fragile Cesc Fabregas in front of N'Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko.

This suited Chelsea's wing backs, who were given the space to put pressure on the Atletico defence, and the majority of Chelsea's chances in the first half came from crosses in from David Zappacosta and the recently-returned Victor Moses.

Alvaro Morata also wore the role of lone striker well and, with Eden Hazard dropping into a more supportive role, Chelsea relied on Morata's hold-up play throughout the game.

In many respects, Morata was the player of the first half. Where it seemed as though Chelsea could miss Diego Costa at the beginning of the season, Morata has spent the intervening period proving to his audiences that he is one of the best no. 9s in the world.

The result was inevitable. As Atletico tried and failed to take the ball off him in advanced positions, they became frustrated. Early in the game, the fouls began leeching in: Lucas Hernandez picking up the game's first yellow card in the 16th minute after trying to dispossess the Spaniard a little too boisterously for the liking of Danny Makkelie, the Dutch referee. 

In the end, then, it was only ever going to be a tight game, a fact that was reflected in the eventual scoreline.

A game of two halves

With the news that Roma were ahead in the Stadio Olimpico, the game in the English capital opened out in the second half.

Despite both Chelsea and Roma being level on points, the rules state that the placing of the teams relative to one another is decided by the points total in the group stage games between them. With Chelsea having lost in Rome, this puts them second in the group behind Roma.

With Chelsea pushing forward, the game opened out in a way that suited Los Rojiblancos, who were able to get into more advanced positions than Chelsea had allowed in the first half.

The first goal of the game came as a result of one of these forages into the opposition half by Atletico. Winning a corner in the 57th minute, the ball was flicked on at the front of the box by Fernando Torres before falling onto the head of an unmarked Saul Niguez at the back post.

But where a more open game suited the Madrid-based side going forwards, their defence were less sanguine about the more progressive Chelsea team facing them.

In the end, then, in spite of the excitement injected into the game in the second half, the irresistible force continued to meet the unstoppable object.

However, in the latter parts of the game, the roles were reversed. In this case, the irresistible force proved to be Eden Hazard, who continued in his scintillating run of form and proved too hot for the Atletico defence to handle for long periods of the game.

That it was he who eventually produced the goal for Chelsea was hardly surprising. What was surprising was that he relied on Stefan Savic rather than a teammate to help the ball into the net.

And despite the game following an errily similar pattern to the first leg in Madrid - Michy Batshuayi coming on late on - the Belgian couldn't quite manage to find the top corner when his chance came.

A 1-1 draw, in the end, was probably fair on the balance of play. But it gives little account of just how exhilarating the game was in the second half. 

Conte's changes produce industry

Last season, Antonio Conte's utilisation of the 3-4-3 formation changed the face of English football.

In the time since that fateful match against Arsenal, where the Italian decided to shift to a back three, a number of clubs across the Premier League have followed suit to the extent that a three-man defence is now no longer the oddity it once was.

 Where the back three has stayed this season, the various arrangement of players in front of this defensive unit has evolved, though. In this game, Conte preferred a midfield three to the more usual two with the result that a number of squad rotation issues have arisen.

For Tiemoue Bakayoko, this shift is advantageous, giving him more game time in which to impress his manager. 

Beginning the game brightly, the Frenchman faded as the game went on, eventually being replaced by Pedro in the 64th minute.

A more notable appearance came from youngster Andreas Christensen who currently finds himself a pawn in the ongoing feud between Conte and David Luiz.

 As the rumours about Luiz heading off to Madrid swirl around the terraces at Stamford Bridge, the young Dane is concentrating on making himself undroppable on the pitch.

Tonight was another example of why going abroad is such a productive way for young players to develop. In the middle of the back three, Christensen was assured which, for anyone who has watched David Luiz play, is not the modus operandi of the man who he is replacing.