Chelsea beat Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
The Belgian turned captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s hanging flank with a breathtakingly accurate header after shaking three hard-core Zenit defenders aside.
However, if Artem Dzyuba had pushed the ball home late for Zenit from just a few meters, it would have been a completely different color.
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target Chelsea remained intact to remove three important points from Group H’s first encounter.
A delay in the presentation of the UEFA individual prizes before kick-off created a mood for a victory parade in West London.
Thomas Tuchel received his UEFA Manager of the Year Gong for the final season, with Edouard Mendy being presented his trophy as Goalkeeper of the Year.
Jorginho finally got his hands on his silverware for Player of the Season when the Blues paid tribute to last season’s Champions League triumph.
Ultimately, despite minimal possession, the guests had the most credible half-chance before the break. However, Reece James lifted the ball off Claudinho’s toe to reduce the danger.
Hakim Ziyech hit Chelsea’s first shot on goal shortly after the break, but Toni Rüdiger needed a huge run to lift the crowd.
The German defender galloped 70 meters into Zenit’s penalty area before striking a shot wildly. As soon as the robust central defender found this position, he really should have hit the target.
But the determination to run the length of the field proved sufficient to put the home loyalists on their feet.
Mateo Kovacic threaded a nice ball towards Ziyech, but the Moroccan striker couldn’t spot anyone in the center of the box.
James then tiptoed around the defense of Zenit, but was unable to test Stanislav Kritsyuk in the guests’ goal.
When Chelsea pressed and lost control, Sardar Azmoun almost snuck through the gate – and Rüdiger had to get to safety.
Just as the nerves of the blues began to twitch for a breakthrough, Lukaku showed up with a fine-headed finish.
Azpilicueta’s hanging flank on the far post asked to be turned home but still required centimeter contact.
Not even the three Zenit defenders circling him could defeat Lukaku, however, the Talisman striker nodded the ball out of reach and into the net.
Substitute striker Dzyuba should have found the net as he slid towards a low center that left him in a pile with Mendy.
His failure proved that Zenit could get the closest to the Blues opening, with the hosts negotiating the final stages to seal the win.