Romelu Lukaku steered home a Cesar Azpilicueta cross in the second half and Chelsea opened its European Cup defense with a 1-0 defeat of Zenit Saint Petersburg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
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The Blues had two-thirds of the ball at home but the teams combined for just four shots on target in an affair that showcased the champs’ sturdiness as much as their possession (aside from one big, late Zenit chance).
Chelsea next plays at Tottenham on Sunday before visits from Aston Villa in the League Cup and Man City in the PL. Then it’s off to Juventus.
Three things we learned from Chelsea vs Zenit
1. Lukaku keeps delivering: All he does is score the first goal in Chelsea wins. Lukaku’s led the way in a 2-0 defeat of Arsenal, bagged two in a 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa, and now Lukaku’s pushed the Blues past the Zenitchiki. Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross was so pretty that either Lukaku or Kai Havertz could’ve nodded it home.
His 2021 so far:
- Inter Milan — 15 goals in 26 matches
- Belgium — 10 goals in 11 caps
- Chelsea — Four goals in four appearances
— UCL on Paramount+ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 14, 2021
2. All told, Chelsea’s grasp of Tuchel’s system is complete: There were Chelsea players who failed to shine against Russian opposition, but none were poor. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that Tuchel’s system has been embraced by the entire team now that we’ve seen Lukaku looking like an ever-present threat atop the attack.
Passing at over 91 percent and doubling the completed passes of the visitors, this was very much all Chelsea apart from, well, Thing No. 3.
3. Mendy shook up on would-be Zenit equalizer: A Sardar Azmoun cross between Azpilicueta and Mendy should’ve been punched home by the sliding boots of Artem Dzyuba, but instead those boots went into the midsection of the Chelsea goalkeeper after the Zenit sub scuttled his effort wide of the goal. Mendy played on after several minutes of treatment, but the cracks in the back line and bruised belly will both be worth monitoring moving forward.
Man of the Match: Antonio Rudiger
Steady at the back, he also led a wild dribble through the heart of Zenit’s territory and was very good with the ball at his feet.