Lukaku scores as defending champions Chelsea beats a robust Zenit 1-0 in their first Champions League group game

Defending champions Chelsea got off their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win at home against a mostly robust Zenit St. Petersburg.

Defending champions Chelsea got off their Champions League campaign with a 1-0 win at home against a mostly robust Zenit St. Petersburg. Petersburg’s strategy was very clear at Stamford Bridge and that was to restrict space in the final third and get an odd attacking move or so on the break.

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They mostly tried to restrict the dangerous Romelu Lukaku in their box. During the first half, while Chelsea’s defence was solid and snuffing any chance Zenith had, their attack was sterile which was partly due to Zenit’s strategy and partly due to Mason Mount and Hakim Ziyech not being at their best. Mount missed a few passes and it wasn’t Ziyech’s day at all. In front of 40,000 fans for the first time in the Champions League, Tuchel had to be a bit frustrated with the first half. In the second, Chelsea came out with more intensity but Zenit still felt that they had a chance on the break. Defender Antonio Rudiger had a good chance when he lunged forward and being the massive presence that he is, he went from his half to theirs but his shot ended up being snatched wide.

Lukaku was being restricted throughout the game but he is inevitable, as he waited and worked for providing those half chances. During the 69th minute of the game, the ball was worked from the inside left to the inside right as captain César Azpilicueta had the ball. He saw Lukaku in the six-yard box and then gave a lovely cross for the Belgian striker to slot in with absolute ruthlessness.

Chelsea was patient for that goal and they got it. At the end of the second half, Zenit could have equalised when Sander Azmoun crossed the ball and it met substitute, Artem Dzyuba but he stretched and put it wide. It was a rare chance conceded by the very miserly Chelsea defence.

It ended with them getting three points and Lukaku being the difference between Chelsea’s last season and this season as he proved to be clinical from the outset, scoring 4 goals already for the Blues. They will need to work on some aspects of Chelsea’s play but all in all, he will take away many positives from the match.