Romelu Lukaku was once again the deciding factor as Chelsea kicked off their Champions League crown defense with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zenit St. Petersburg.
Chelsea started as the lighter of the two teams and seemed to have pinned Zenit back into their own half in the first moments, although the Russian champions defended resolutely and soon began to step on the ball and silence the home fans.
It was a bit of a bumpy first half, however, with the first shot on goal only being fired in the 39th minute, and Yaroslav Rakitskiy was able to confidently parry after a corner from Edouard Mendy.
In the second half, Chelsea increased the pace and were more at risk of attack, although they still struggled to really test Stanislav Kritsyuk at the Zenit goal as the visitors tried to keep it tight at the back and hit at break.
However, they would finally create a piece of quality to take the lead 21 minutes before the end of the game. Cesar Azpilicueta threw in a cross from the right, Lukaku peeled off his man to steer a precise header down into the lower corner – his fourth goal for the club since his return to Stamford Bridge this summer.
The game would open a little after the goal as Zenit would try to get back into the game with both sides close in the closing stages. Marcos Alonso pulled a shot from the edge of the box, while Artem Dzyuba couldn’t get enough of the connection after a square ball from Sardar Azmoun over the six yard area.
However, Chelsea would look confidently to the game to scoop the first three points of their Group H season and Blues boss Thomas Tuchel was pleased with his team performance against a strong opponent after that.
“We expected a tough game because it’s the highest competition in Europe and it’s the Russian champions,” Tuchle told BT Sport.
“We had to be at our top level. I am happy because we had to work a lot. It was’nt easy. It’s hard to be consistent at this level.
“Winning is good for our faith. We’re not done yet, but we’re in a good place to improve.
“The first step is taken. But there are still five matches to go [in the group stage]. “
The striker packs his very first one #UCL Goal for Chelsea! 💙
It’s been a tricky evening for the blues, but they finally break the dead end … pic.twitter.com/V5jRRUR3QQ
– Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 14, 2021
Tuchel continued to praise the impact of his £ 98m striker, who has continued on his rich form since his return to Stamford Bridge.
“It was a great header [from Lukaku for the goal], a well-timed flank from Azpilicueta. He was brave enough to get up and we had bodies in the box.
“That’s why he did [Lukaku] is here. He likes to score and he is crucial for us. “
Next up for Chelsea is a London derby against Tottenham.
“Complete package” Lukaku gave Chelsea that certain “extra” to keep the Champions League
See also – Five of the best players for Barcelona and Bayern Munich
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