Champions League wrap: Pulisic, Havertz fire Chelsea ahead; McKennie injured in Juve draw

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Christian Pulisic and Kai Havertz each scored a goal as Chelsea beat Lille 2-0 to kick off their UEFA Champions League defense in the round of 16 first leg on Tuesday.

[ MORE: USMNT, Juventus MF Weston McKennie’s foot is fractured ]

Chelsea 2-0 Lille – recap & highlights

The defending European champions will head to France for the second leg on March 16 with a two-goal cushion provided by Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic.

Havertz opened the scoring in the 8th minute, as he headed home Hakim Ziyech’s out. Pulisic doubled the advantage just after the hour mark, at a time when Lille were looking the likelier side to score next.

Pulisic goal, in the Champions League, eases USMNT fears (video)

It had been quite a while — as in, not entirely sure when the last time was — since Pulisic appeared to play with joy and confidence, but that was certainly the case all throughout the game on Tuesday. The finish for his goal was a play he made dozens of times while at Borussia Dortmund, but has too often struggled to complete for Chelsea.

Pulisic’s form was borderline woeful for the USMNT during the most recent round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers, and it didn’t look like changing much upon returning to Chelsea. So, Tuesday’s goal came perhaps by surprise, but it was just what USMNT fans needed to see from the captain and talisman with the decisive qualifiers quickly approaching.

[ MORE: UEFA consider moving Champions League final from Russia ]

Lukaku left out amid ongoing slump

Romelu Lukaku hasn’t scored a goal in the Premier League (or any competition aside from the exhibition-like Club World Cup, where he bagged two in two games) since Dec. 29 (seven appearances), and that the Belgian striker on the bench on Tuesday. Havertz was instead preferred as a nontraditional striker up top, with Pulisic and Ziyech flanking him on either side. Timo Werner was also preferred over Lukaku as a second-half substitute.

After Lukaku had just seven touches of the ball in 90 minutes against Crystal Palace on the weekend, Havertz took his opportunity to be heavily involved in the build-up for Chelsea, smartly linking play for Pulisic and Ziyech, as well as the overlapping wing backs. Aside from scoring the early goal, Havertz facilitated much better attacking movement from a Chelsea side that had badly struggled with its own predictability in recent weeks.


Villarreal 1-1 Juventus – recap & highlights

Dusan Vlahovic scored his first Champions League goal just 32 seconds into his Champions League debut, giving Juventus a 1-0 lead they would eventually let slip away when the entire defense switched off at the same, very brief moment.

Not-so-good USMNT news: Weston McKennie injured (video)

Weston McKennie was putting the finishing touches on yet another strong performance in the 80th minute, when he was cut down in the open field. His left ankle appeared to get caught underneath the heavy challenge. McKennie hobbled his way around the field, with the help of just one physio, unable to put any weight on his left side.