Quiet but victorious recovery for the reigning European champion. Without forcing or really shining, Chelsea won at home against Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday, on the first day of the Champions League group stage (1-0). Not really biting offensively, the Blues were able to count on their new and already inevitable center-forward Romelu Lukaku, author of the only goal of the match (69th). At the same time, Juventus went to correct the Swedes of Malmö (0-3) to take the lead of this group H.
Before the match, N’Golo Kanté, absent due to injury, Thomas Tuchel, Jorginho and Edouard Mendy all received an award from the UEFA president. Fireworks were also launched above the stands of Stamford Bridge to celebrate the last European coronation of the Blues. On the other hand, on the ground, the first period was less festive. The Londoners quickly set foot on the ball but encountered visitors who were perfectly rigorous in their positioning and pressing. The European champions especially lacked technical accuracy, liveliness and inspiration to take failing the opposing defense or even serve in good conditions a Lukaku closely watched by the central Zenit, Dmitriy Chistyakov and Yaroslav Rakitskiy.
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Chelsea still spent the second on the restart and the discreet Hakim Ziyech finally alerted the Russian goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk (47th). Impeccable in defense, Antonio Rüdiger, he showed the way to his people with an astonishing but superb axial ride concluded in the zone of truth with a strike from a little off-target (50th). The German also returned in extremis to his area to prevent the probable future Lyonnais Sardar Azmoun from striking against Mendy (61st).
César Azpilicueta also stood out with a long perfect cross on the right to the far post for Lukaku, who placed his header back in the net after losing for once the marking of Chistyakov (1-0 , 69th). The new lethal weapon of the Blues made the difference against the Russians who reacted timidly after the entry into play of Artem Dzyuba in place of the former Bordeaux Malcom, too harmless like his (75th).
Served at six meters by Azmoun, the powerful and experienced newcomer almost equalized by tackling against Mendy but he did not manage to really regain the ball before hitting the former Rennais (80th). It was the only real opportunity of the evening for the champions of Russia who will have to show a more ambitious face on the next day against Malmö. For its part, Chelsea will have time to gain momentum for their shock against Juve with two strong meetings to come in the league against Tottenham next Sunday and then against Manchester City just before the trip to Turin.
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