Defending champions Chelsea have not missed their start in the new Champions League campaign, although it was not without a fight against Zenit. Romelu Lukaku was the savior with his first Champions League goal for Chelsea, his striking header ensured a narrow 1-0 victory.
Chelsea – Zenit Saint Petersburg in a nutshell:
- Key moment: Despite the clear dominance of the field, Chelsea barely manages to create opportunities. Twenty minutes before the end, a great pass from Azpilicueta makes the difference. The Chelsea captain can finally bring Lukaku into position and he heads the home side to a 1-0 win.
- Man of the match: It was a frustrating evening for Romelu Lukaku for nearly 70 minutes. The Red Devil was kept out of the game excellently, but again showed that he needs little to score. His first Champions League goal for Chelsea was immediately invaluable.
- Remarkable: Another clean sheet for Edouard Mendy. Since his Premier League debut in October last year, the Chelsea goalkeeper has already cleared 10 times. That is at least 3 times more than any goalkeeper in the Champions League in that period.
Party before kick-off, sadness after
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin had come especially to Stamford Bridge tonight to hand out a few more trophies to defending champions Chelsea. Jorginho (Player of the Year), Kanté (Midfielder of the Year), Mendy (Goalkeeper of the Year) and Tuchel (Manager of the Year) were extensively honored before kick-off.
The festivities before the start of the game unfortunately did not continue on the turf. Chelsea had most of the ball in a lackluster first half, but didn’t do much with it. Lukaku, who received the most applause from the Chelsea fans before kick-off, was barely brought into position.
The best chances were even for Zenit. Before fifteen minutes, the visitors suddenly put together a most charming attack. Azmoun got the ball up to the detached Claudinho and it took a crucial intervention from James to deprive the Brazilian of a huge opportunity.
Only after more than 38 minutes there was finally a first ball between the posts and it was still one of the visitors. But Mendy didn’t really have much trouble with Rakytski’s long shot. Furthermore, for him and his colleague Kritsjoek it was mostly unemployed.
Lukaku makes the difference with buffalo punch
At the start of the second half there was a bit more venom in Chelsea’s game. Kritsjoek immediately had to flatten on a place ball from Ziyech, finally the first shot between the posts of the home team. Rüdiger then got his hands together with an impressive rush from his own half, but his shot went wide.
On the hour, that same Rüdiger again garnered applause, this time for a defensive move. With a crucial intervention, he was just able to thwart a huge opportunity for the advancing Azmoun. Chelsea were in charge, but the chances remained scarce. Zenit only came out sporadically, a
Wendel’s long shot stranded in Mendy’s hands.
It was a frustrating game for Lukaku for 70 minutes, but the Red Devil showed once again that he needs little to make the difference. Azpilicueta painted the ball flawlessly on his head and with a true buffalo punch Lukaku left goalkeeper Kritjoek without a chance.
The loot seemed to be in for Chelsea, but 10 minutes before the end the defending champion was still unscathed. Azmoun offered Dzjoeba an excellent chance to equalize, but the attacker who had just come in, slipped the ball wide. Zenit did not come any closer to 1-1. It almost even went 2-0 with a sharp counter in extra time, but this time Lukaku was less efficient.