Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (R) heads residence the opening purpose of the UEFA Champions League Group H soccer match in opposition to Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge in London on September 14, 2021. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP
Romelu Lukaku enlivened an in any other case flat Chelsea efficiency with the one purpose to beat Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 and get the Blues’ Champions League defence off to a profitable begin.
Lukaku by no means made a Champions League look throughout his first spell at Stamford Bridge however is shortly making up for misplaced time since returning to Chelsea for a club-record £97 million ($134 million) final month.
The Belgian striker now has 4 objectives in as many video games and his predatory instincts 21 minutes from time papered over the cracks of a disappointing show from Thomas Tuchel’s males.
Tuchel urged his gamers to not relaxation on their laurels after their shock run to change into European champions final season.
However, the glory of their victory over Manchester City in Porto was arduous to shrug off because the German, Edouard Mendy, and Jorginho have been offered with awards on the pitch earlier than kick-off as UEFA coach, goalkeeper, and participant of the 12 months respectively.
Chelsea definitely have the squad depth to have the ability to problem on all fronts this season and Tuchel made 5 adjustments from the facet that beat Aston Villa 3-0 within the Premier League on Saturday.
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Reece James, Jorginho, and Mason Mount returned to the beginning line-up, however there was nonetheless little verve to Chelsea’s attacking play all through.
The first half got here and went with out the house facet even registering a shot on track.
Centre-back Antonio Rudiger appeared to take issues into his personal palms with a rampaging run ahead 5 minutes after the break, however the end let the German worldwide down as he blazed large.
Lukaku showcased his mixture of tempo, energy, and precision in entrance of the purpose to attain his first Stamford Bridge purpose for Chelsea in opposition to Villa on the weekend.
Zenit had saved the 28-year-old quiet for almost 70 minutes, however all he wanted was one teasing cross from Azpilicueta to get off the mark within the Champions League for his new membership by planting a header previous Stanislav Kritsyuk.
Zenit boss Sergei Semak threw on the towering presence of Artem Dzyuba seeking an equaliser and it almost paid off.
But even the six-foot six-inch (1.97 metre) Russian worldwide couldn’t stretch to get a clear sufficient contact on Sardar Azmoun’s cross 10 minutes from time and the ball dribbled large.
Tuchel instantly shut up store with the introduction of Thiago Silva and Chelsea held out for a fourth clear sheet in six video games this season.