BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel praised his players for suffocating Atletico Madrid with relentless pressing as they beat Diego Simeone's side 1-0 in Bucharest on Tuesday in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.
Olivier Giroud's stunning overhead kick in the second half handed Chelsea the advantage going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge on March 17 but Tuchel was most pleased with how his players implemented their game plan and deprived the La Liga leaders of space and the ball.
"We knew they were ready to suffer with eight people in the box. The intention was to keep the intensity high and we did that very well. We never let them breathe or come out for counter-attacks," Tuchel told reporters.
"We wanted to dominate in the opponents' half, to never lose concentration, not to make any easy mistakes and always be aware of quick counter-attacks for all their quality. It was a very disciplined performance, a deserved shut out."
Tuchel has led Chelsea to six wins in eight games in all competitions since succeeding Frank Lampard in January but this was his most significant result. The performance showed the impact he has already had on the team.
The German said the players were following his methods well but they had to keep on practising their new-found style of play as if they were a band.
"It's like learning a new song, you have to repeat it and repeat it so it gets more fluid and more in the rhythm. It's about repetition, we created a lot of situations where we could start attacks and I'm very happy with that," he said.
"I'm confident because I see the will, the hunger, the desire. Today was one of the toughest challenges to open up a defence like Atletico but we can and we will not stop pushing the guys and encourage them to improve and keep going."
Atletico coach Simeone said he felt the game had been tight and did not agree that his side had been second best.
"Both sides worked really hard, there were really few opportunities to score and they took theirs, but apart from that it was really even," said the Argentine, whose side have won only once in their last five matches in all competitions.
"But if you'd told me in September we'd be 1-0 down after the first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League and top of La Liga, I'd have signed up for it."
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)