Kai Havertz to Timo Werner to Hakim Ziyech.
It’s the combination many Chelsea fans – and board members – dreamed of this summer, as the Blues spent more than £ 150million ($ 209million) to improve their offense.
And while it may have taken the trio until mid-March to combine for a huge moment of victory, the beauty of Ziyech’s goal against Atletico Madrid was worth the wait.
After N’Golo Kante completed a corner relief, it was Havertz who played a delicious slash pass into Werner’s path, who in turn led into space before picking Ziyech at the far post for a direct finish.
Chelsea broke the bank this summer in a bid to fight not only at the top of the Premier League table but also in the Champions League, where their record has been disappointing throughout the seasons since their triumph in 2012.
The experience with that team slowly wore off, and they had only reached the quarter-finals once since, in 2014, before this campaign.
But under Thomas Tuchel, the club already seem to be able to become a force on the continent again, especially if its high-priced signings have finally found their marks.
Tuchel brought some defensive solidity to the Blues, and they have now gone 597 minutes in all competitions without conceding a goal after their 2-0 victory over Diego Simeone’s side at Stamford Bridge.
But they lacked magic in the future, with the majority of their attacking players still suffering from hangovers from the final weeks of Frank Lampard’s tenure.
Perhaps it was fitting, then, that the man nicknamed “The Magician of Amsterdam” Ziyech was the player to break the deadlock in a game where Atletico had caused Chelsea some early trouble, including through Joao Felix.
The counterattack for the opening of the match showed all the cunning, speed and killer instinct that Chelsea lacked in the final third, and if they are to truly challenge the European elite, they will have to show more to go with his defensive prowess.
It was Ziyech’s first goal after a 20-game drought, while Havertz has only scored once in his last 25 games and Werner twice in his last 27.
That’s not to say they haven’t played well lately, with Havertz seemingly reborn as a ‘false nine’ and Werner looking a lot more confident in recent weeks than he has under Lampard.
Former RB Leipzig’s raw stats for his debut season in England – 10 goals and seven assists – don’t look too bad, but the narrative around him continues to suggest he has flopped.
Here, however, he was a constant threat, using his pace to enter behind an Atletico backline that is not at the level of the Diego Godin-led foursome of the mid-2010s.
Ziyech, meanwhile, was pulling out all his old street football stuff as the game went on, and Tuchel is hoping the Morocco international will be able to maintain that level heading into the final.
The victory, which was capped in added time by Emerson Palmieri finishing another superb counterattack, was perhaps Tuchel’s best of time with the club, and will give Roman Abramovich the hope he hired. the right man to bring national and continental glory back to West London.
Having shown tactical sense in the first leg victory, the German boss once again outscored Simeone – the world’s highest paid manager – in the return leg as he became the first Chelsea manager to go unbeaten in his first 13 games in charge.
No team will want to take on their fit squad in Friday’s quarterfinal draw, and having reached the final last season – albeit under unique circumstances – he has the experience of navigating a path through. the round of 16.
While this Paris Saint-Germain squad was built on his offense, Chelsea’s foundations are currently in his defense.
But if the Blues’ summer purchases can build on their performance here, then all of a sudden Tuchel could have a frontline capable of going better than Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in 2020.