Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game while Antonio Rudiger impressed as Chelsea beat Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 in the UEFA Champions League.
Defending champions Chelsea kicked off their 2021/22 UEFA Champions League with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Russian heavyweights Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. It was a largely lacklustre performance from Thomas Tuchel’s men who struggled to find their rhythm in the first period and failed to register a single shot on target.
Hakim Ziyech saw an effort saved early in the second half before eventually, Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring for the Blues in the 69th minute, nodding home a fine cross from captain Cesar Azpilicueta. Zenit threatened a late equaliser only for Artem Dzyuba to miss a rather straightforward chance as Chelsea held on for a win to begin the defence of their Champions League crown with a win.
The result sees Chelsea occupy the second spot in Group H, level on points with leaders Juventus but behind on goal difference. Here’s how we rated the performances of Tuchel’s men on Tuesday.
Edouard Mendy: 6/10
Not forced into action a great deal on the night, Mendy had to make a couple of routine saves while he did well to put off Dzyuba for his late attempt. Another clean sheet for the Senegalese.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
— César Azpilicueta (@CesarAzpi) September 14, 2021
Moved into the centre-back slot after starting at right-back over the weekend, the Chelsea captain hardly put a foot wrong on Tuesday. Solid at the back when needed to be, distributed the ball well and fired the lovely cross that led to the winning goal.
Andreas Christensen: 7/10
Replaced Thiago Silva at the centre of the three-man backline, the Danish defender did his bit in ensuring that Sardar Azmoun was unable to pose a major threat on the night. Read the game well, was strong where he needed to be.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
A top display from the German international who was like an immovable object in the Chelsea defence. Pulled off a brilliant last-ditch challenge to deny Azmoun a goalscoring chance. The most notable moment, though, came early in the second half when he went on a mazy run for nearly the entire length of the pitch and almost scored, with his shot going wide.
Reece James: 6/10
Back into the side after missing the last game due to suspension, James wasn’t exactly at his best flying forward but did deliver three key passes on the night. Did well to deny Claudinho an early chance and was diligent defensively.
Jorginho had more touches (137), played more accurate long balls (5) and made the joint-most interceptions (3) compared to other players on the pitch against Zenit St Petersburg.
Midfield maestro. pic.twitter.com/RhwRH488ea
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 14, 2021
Did what he does best in the middle of the park, regaining and recycling possession with impressive efficiency. Always on the lookout to break open the Zenit rearguard. Impressive on his return to the lineup.
Mateo Kovacic: 6.5/10
More defensive than usual in the early phases, but did what was needed of him, cutting out attacks with some strong challenges. Made some positive runs forward over the course of the game, although he wasn’t able to create any openings for his teammates.
Marcos Alonso: 6/10
Once again preferred over Ben Chilwell, the Spaniard did not have the best of games as he found it hard to make any inroads coming up against the deep defensive block of Zenit. Not stretched a great deal defensively, but was at fault for the late chance that fell to Dzyuba.
Hakim Ziyech: 6/10
Not the best of games for the Moroccan international, who found it difficult to produce the usual quality on his final ball on the night. Did have the first shot on target of the game for Chelsea, but it was saved fairly easily. Needs to make the most of his chances.
Mason Mount: 6/10
Reinstated to the starting XI, the England international was full of energy and vigour on the night but lacked the final ball that Chelsea needed to break open the stubborn rearguard of the visiting team. Did play three key passes but they led to nothing.
Romelu Lukaku: 8/10
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) September 14, 2021
Another game, another goal for Romelu Lukaku who is quickly becoming the main match-winner for Tuchel. Was deprived of chances for large parts of the game, but when the opportunity came, he did not miss, heading home Azpilicueta’s cross to win it for Chelsea. Absolutely clinical.
Kai Havertz: 6/10
On for Ziyech for the final half-hour. Caused some problems with his movement but the final pass was lacking.
Thiago Silva: N/A
Replaced Azpilicueta in the 82nd minute.
Ben Chilwell: N/A
Made his first appearance of the season replacing Alonso with less than ten minutes left.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: N/A
Stoppage-time substitute for Mount.