Christian Pulisic was again the knock-out king for Chelsea, while Juventus were reminded of their pitiful mediocrity without Weston McKennie as the Champions League was whittled down to its final eight teams.
Lille OSC 1 – 2 Chelsea (agg. 1-4)
Christian Pulisic and Chelsea ignored the noise of their currently turbulent ownership situation, with the American putting in a man-of-the-match performance to help the team advance past Lille.
USMNT starter Timothy Weah played the final half-hour for Lille, but was unable to help them turn the tide against the English giants.
As has been the case in Chelsea’s most important games as of late, the American was in head coach Thomas Tuchel’s starting lineup, this time atop the attack alongside Kai Havertz.
In his 74 minutes on the field, Chelsea’s American star put in an efficient performance, as the tip of the spear, scoring on his lone shot, while hitting 13 of 17 passes amongst his 27 total touches.
Having lost the first leg in London by a 2-0 margin, les Dogues knew that they needed a near-miracle to go through, and did give themselves a small opening before Pulisic cruelly slammed the door.
VAR was the momentary beacon of hope for Lille several minutes past the half-hour. Following a rather chaotic sequence around Chelsea’s goal on a corner in the 35th minute that was admittedly of little danger to the visitors, the game was momentarily stopped after the French players protested heavily for a hand-ball in the area.
Replays showed that, amidst the melee, the ball bounced off of Xeka’s chest onto Jorginho’s arm. Even if the contact was unavoidable and unintentional, it was correctly, after some deliberation, ruled as a spot kick for the hosts, which Burak Yilmaz put away in the 38th minute to cut the aggregate deficit to a single goal.
Any lingering pressure that this would have place on the Chelsea players was relieved in a matter of minutes, as Pulisic put away the knock-out punch that silenced the home crowd deep into first-half added time.
Following a vulturous, probing build-up sequence by Chelsea well outside of Lille’s penalty area, Jorginho finally spotted an opening on the right side of the area, and fed Pulisic a perfect through-ball. The American burst free between a trio of defenders, and slotted the ball with his first touch from the right edge of the six-yard box to the lower edge of the far corner, restoring Chelsea’s two-goal aggregate advantage.
The hosts weren’t completely deflated by Chelsea’s goal, and almost pulled the aggregate score back to a single goal when Xeka’s header in the 62nd minute clanged off the left upright.
However, what little was left of their resolve was eventually broken with Cesar Azpilicueta sneaking in on the right side to one-time Mason Mount’s cross-field pass, sealing the final 2-1 win, and overall 4-1 aggregate advantage.
Pulisic and his Chelsea teammates now await the result of Friday’s draw to find out their quarterfinal foe, but beforehand will visit FC Middeslbrough in the last eight of the FA Cup over the weekend.
Weston McKennie is out for the rest of the season for Juventus, and did not suit up for their 3-0 spanking by Villarreal. The aggregate 4-1 loss knocks Juventus out of European competition, allowing them to focus on domestic matters in Italy.