Christian Pulisic once again scored in a Champions League knockout game to lift Chelsea over Lille, while Weston McKennie appeared to suffer an ankle knock in Juventus’ draw at Villarreal.
FC Chelsea 2 – 0 Lille OSC
Christian Pulisic put in a fine shift for Chelsea on Tuesday night, scoring their second goal to give the team a huge advantage in their first-leg victory over Lille.
Timothy Weah was on Lille’s bench, however was not called into action as head coach Jocelyn Gourvennec only opted to make four substitutions in the game.
Pulisic had a generally efficient shift deployed on the left, just behind the central striker Kai Havertz, scoring with his lone shot of the game, while completing nearly 90% of his 26 passes and winning the vast majority of his duels against opposing players.
Chelsea were off and running from the start, with Havertz giving the Blues the lead after only eight minutes in standard form. Hakim Ziyech delivered a corner from the left side, which the German forward rose high to head in from the edge of the six-yard box for the 1-0 aggregate advantage.
Havertz was close to making it 2-0 just before the hour when he broke into the left side of the area on a counter, but his shot from eight yards was too high.
Four minutes later, Pulisic succeeded in giving Chelsea the two-goal advantage. Ngolo Kanté drove forward with the ball like a bull through the Lille defense, and laid it off to Pulisic on the left, who was being marked tightly by Lille’s Xeka.
He managed to surge past the Portuguese midfielder, draw keeper Leo Jardim off his line, and chip his shot to the far side of goal for the 2-0 insurance goal.
Pulisic was given a rest by head coach Thomas Tuchel after 80 minutes, with Timo Werner taking his place on the field. In the end, the two-goal advantage held, giving Chelsea a major leg-up in the series.
With the two-goal advantage, Chelsea will like their chances to advance to the final eight after the return leg in France on March 16. They have the chance to put a second trophy into their cabinet so far in 2022 when they play Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.
Villarreal 1 – 1 Juventus
Weston McKennie got the starting nod by Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri in their knockout game at Villarreal on Tuesday, however was forced to depart after 80 minutes with an apparent ankle injury in the draw.
Prior to the injury, the American had a typically strong performance, getting off one shot while setting up three more for his teammates, completing 90% of his 28 attempted passes, and generally spending much of his time in the thick of the action.
The visitors needed just over 30 seconds to take the lead, with their new target-man Dusan Vlahovic pulling down a long ball forward from Danilo in the area between two Villarreal defenders, and placing his shot on a time between the two opponents to the far side of goal.
Villarreal’s Giovani Lo Celso nearly equalized with a shot off the woodwork in the 13th minute, and they kept the pressure on their visitors with Arnaut Danjuma forcing Wojciech Szczesny into a save four minutes later.
McKennie had a shot on the turn from the center of the area blocked in the 38th minute, with the game going into the half as a narrow advantage to the Italians.
The American’s long ball forward set up Alvaro Morata for a 16-yard volley attempt that flew high two minutes after the restart, however Villarreal finally broke through to equalize in the 66th minute.
Patiently letting the playing field slowly develop to reveal an opening, Etienne Capoue lofted a perfectly-weighted pass towards the edge of the six-yard box, where Daniel Parejo ran in unmarked and swept it past Szczesny with his first touch.
Juventus as well as American fans were dealt a bitter blow with ten minutes left on the clock, when defender Pervis Estupiñán rolled McKennie’s left ankle while clearing the ball. His tackle was clean, however damage was nevertheless done, with the American immediately leaving the field under considerable duress, sparking fears of a severe injury.
Juventus still pushed for the late win, with Vlahovic’s low shot forcing Villarreal keeper Geronimo Rulli into a diving save with five minutes left, however the game ended on even terms.
The tie will be decided in the return leg in Turin on March 16. In the meantime, Juventus will try to bolster their league position when they visit Empoli in Serie A action on Saturday.