Chelsea beat Lille, stun Villarreal to enter the Champions League quarter-finals
Chelsea put their troubles off the field in front of a side to seal their place in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday as Cesar Azpilicueta secured a 2-1 win over Lille in the second leg of the Round of 16, and a 4.-1 aggregate victory.
Given the impact of the British government’s sanctions on its Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, the London club looked annoyed as they were trailed in northern France to a first-half penalty by Burak Yilmaz.
Lille had given himself a chance to save the confrontation after losing 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last month, but Christian Pulisic equalized last night in first-half stoppage time, and captain Azpilicueta scored the winning goal in the 71st minute.
The French Ligue 1 champions are sidelined and, after Paris Saint-Germain’s stunning exit last week, means there will be no French club in Friday’s Champions League quarter-final draw.
In contrast, European champions Chelsea made it three Premier League clubs as they joined Liverpool and Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
“The last few weeks have not been normal but we have to do what is in our hands, which is to train as best we can. Tonight was a tough match and of course we are happy to play it,” Azpilicueta told British broadcaster BT Sport.
“This group is fighting against everything, we know we have to do our best on the pitch, stick to each other and hopefully at the end of the day we will have a very good season.”
Coach Thomas Tuchel insisted there were no excuses for his squad despite leaving the Blues in turmoil after Abramovich’s assets were frozen, with only Chelsea allowed to continue operating by the British government under special licence.
They were prevented from selling tickets and told they could not spend more than £20,000 ($26,300) per match on travel costs, causing some chaos with their plans for the trip across the English Channel.
Before kick-off on Wednesday, it emerged that the Ricketts family, owners of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, were leading a consortium looking to buy the club as British athletics star Sebastian Coe announced his participation in a rival bid.
Villarreal ousts Juventus
Meanwhile in Turin, Villarreal reached the Champions League quarter-finals after inflicting a 3-0 humiliating defeat on Juventus to advance 4-1 on aggregate.
Penalties from Gerard Moreno and Arnot Danjuma and Pau Torres’ scoring in the last quarter of the hour were enough for Unai Emery’s well-organised team to beat the Italians at Allianz Stadium and equalize in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Villarreal stunned Juventus with three powerful punches after spending most of the match stagnant, content to fend off the hosts’ attacks that became less powerful as the match went on.
The embarrassing loss was the second for Juventus since the end of November and spoke of a strong level that brought them back to the race for the league title at home.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side were booed loudly by fans who watched their team shrivel from a promising start and bounce off a yellow wall before being knocked out of the competition.
Italy is now without a single representative in the Champions League this season as it moves into its final stages, with the cynical Villarreal beating the Serie A side in their match.
(France 24 with AFP)
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