Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel praised his side’s mentality amid off-field issues, as the Blues ran out comfortable 4-1 aggregate winners against Lille in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday.
The defending Champions booked their place in the quarter finals thanks to goals from Christian Pulisic and Cesar Azpilicueta in either half, after a Burak Yilmaz penalty had initially given the French side the lead in front of a raucous crowd at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
“Chelsea has this kind of culture within the club, the building (where) we work every day. What I found from day one is football first mentality,” Tuchel said following the victory.
All the chatter around Chelsea has been about the potential new ownership at the club following sanctions on former owner Roman Abramovich for his connections to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but Tuchel believes everyone at the Blues is calm about the existing situation.
“Everyone is calm at the club. The club’s culture is about football. Football is the priority at Chelsea, that’s why we’re focused on what happens on the pitch,” he said.
Carrying a 2-0 victory from the first leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were firm favourites to go through in France, but were rocked early as Lille began the brighter of the two sides.
Even without the presence of talented playmaker Renato Sanches, Lille piled on the pressure, eventually winning a penalty in the 37th minute after VAR adjudged Jorginho to have handled the ball inside the penalty area.
The resulting spot kick was converted by Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz, and gave the Ligue 1 Champions genuine hope of causing an upset in front of their home fans.
That hope was short lived however, as a neat bit of build up play from Chelsea was finished off in smart fashion by Christian Pulisic in first half stoppage time, giving the Blues a firm advantage heading into the halftime break.
The second half brought with it a sense of control from the visitors, but Lille did have their chances, the best of which fell to Portuguese midfielder Xeka in the 63rd minute. Yilmaz’s cross was met by the head of Xeka, but his shot cannoned off the post with Chelsea custodian Edouard Mendy rooted to his spot.
Chelsea made Lille pay for their missed opportunity soon after as Cesar Azpilicueta smartly finished off a Mason Mount cross in the 71st minute, sealing a spot in the quarter finals for the Premier League giants.
Despite a decent performance by Lille in front of their home fans, the players were left frustrated and disappointed following the game.
“I’m frustrated by the result, and by the fact that we missed out on qualification,” said midfielder Amadou Onana.
“Congratulations to Chelsea, they were the better team.”
The Blues will now join Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarter final draw set to take place on Friday, March 18.