Lukaku proving his worth!
Chelsea took on Zenit St. Petersburg for MD 1 of the Champions League group stage at Stamford Bridge. It was a great night with the stadium packed and the likes of Mendy, Kante, Jorginho, and Tuchel given their UEFA awards. Zenit turned up to the Bridge in top form being unbeaten in their last 18 games a run that stretches back 6 months. Zenit usually play a 4-4-2 but they went even more defensive for this game and switched to a 5-4-1. Key players like Claudinho, Azmoun, Malcolm, Santos, Barrios, and Rakitskiy were just some of the players on show for the Russians. Tuchel also made a few changes, Mendy remained in goal with Azpilicueta, Christensen, and Rudiger in defence. Reece and Alonso started as the wing backs with Kovacic and Jorginho in the midfield. Mount and Ziyech started behind Lukaku.
On paper it was a good lineup but the first 45 were quite end to end. The chances on goal were few and far between mainly due to Chelsea lacking the chemistry up front. Lukaku was the focal point up front but several sloppy passes and mistimed runs from Mount and Ziyech meant that we weren’t able to build any proper move. Zenit did well in defence though with Santos, and Rakitskiy staying touch tight to Lukaku. Zenit had a few chances in the first half but the defence and Mendy were more than a match.
The 2nd half saw Chelsea raise the tempo but it meant that we left space in behind for Zenit to also have a few chances. There were still sloppy passes in the final 3rd but Chelsea were able to create more chances in and around the box with Reece and Ziyech having an impact. Rudiger made some key tackles and one that was last ditch which stopped Azmoun from taking a shot. The goal came in the 69th minute as Azpilicueta stepped up and played a brilliant cross into the box. Lukaku managed to make space and rose highest to head the ball in and get the goal. The goal gave Chelsea a boost and we managed to create more chances. Towards the end Lukaku came close with a great solo run but Santos made a great tackle in the end. A tough game but Chelsea yet again managed to win while not being the best.
Chelsea Team Review
Mendy made his 50th appearance for Chelsea and capped it off with another clean sheet. 29 clean sheets in 50 appearances is a crazy stat and Mendy has been well worth it. This game saw him make a couple of key saves again and be dominant in his box once again. A great goalkeeper.
Azpilicueta, Christensen, and Rudiger did brilliantly once again. Azpilicueta provided the key assist for the goal, Christensen was colossal in the centre while Rudiger made several key tackles that kept Chelsea in the game. Reece James had a good game as well and provided a threat going forward and was solid defensively. Alonso had a good game as well but he does look a bit tired. Silva came on late in the game to see out the result while Chilwell also got his first minutes since the Champions League final which was great to see. More to come from him. A clean sheet and 3 points.
Kovacic and Jorginho were their usual selves in this game. Kovacic was all over the midfield avoiding the press and again showing that he has improved his passing range. Some brilliant balls were played into Lukaku and the forward players by the Croat. Jorginho kept the tempo going and did what he does best. Mount did not have the best game and looked sloppy in possession. Mason did get better towards the end of the game but that was well below his standard, early days though. Ruben came on late in the game for a cameo appearance which was good to see.
Ziyech similar to Mount was sloppy in the first half but did slightly better in the 2nd. Havertz did come on for him for the final 30 minutes but Kai also looked like he struggle to get into the groove of things. Lukaku did what Lukaku does. The striker had a good battle with the likes of Santos in the Zenit defence but when a proper chance came Lukaku rose highest to give Chelsea the win. A world class strikers performance.
Thomas Tuchel made the changes and got a win. Like Villa he will not like the manner in which Chelsea played the first half and will want the players to create more but the win is what matters in these early stages of the season. A good start to the campaign.
Chelsea begin the CL campaign with a win and sit 2nd in the group behind Juventus. It wasn’t the best performance but Zenit are no pushovers and we ended their unbeaten run. Next up is a trip to local rivals Tottenham for what is a big derby game on Sunday in the Premier League. COME ON CHELSEA!!!