Romelu Lukaku scored his very first Champions League goal for Chelsea as the holders began their title defence with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Zenit.
In Champions League history, the prize holders have actually only lost their first game of the subsequent campaign on 2 of 27 previous celebrations. Although Chelsea restricted Zenit to little going the other method this tussle, it looked as though Thomas Tuchel’s side would be irritated at Stamford Bridge.
Yet club-record signing Lukaku followed up his double against Aston Villa with a towering 69th-minute header to get the Blues up and running in Group H.
It showed decisive, however Zenit should have levelled– substitute Artem Dzyuba not able to transform from 5 backyards out as Chelsea’s profligacy went unpunished.
14– Only Robert Lewandowski (21 ), Erling Haaland (20) and Bruno Fernandes (17) have actually scored more objectives than Romelu Lukaku (14) in major European competition since the start of 2019-20. Rise. pic.twitter.com/8wEzRvLJEJ
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2021
Despite a dominant start, Chelsea were caught cold defensively in the 12th minute, with Reece James just handling to obstruct Claudinho’s course to goal.
The trend continued, Chelsea prodding and probing without any indication of a development, Yaroslav Rakitskiy’s tame 38th-minute effort marking the only effort on target in the very first half, prior to Lukaku headed James’ changeover.
It took defender Antonio Rudiger to trigger the crowd into life with a charging 50-yard run, the Germany international sending his shot just large from the edge of the area.
Rudiger made a crucial intervention at the other end, timing a challenge on Sardar Azmoun– who was heading through on goal– to perfection.
Chelsea made Rudiger’s work count, Cesar Azpilicueta floating in a cross that Lukaku directed strongly into the left corner.
Marcos Alonso drilled wide as Chelsea searched for a 2nd, though parity needs to have been brought back minutes later.
Azmoun squared to his strike partner Dzyuba, just for the Russia forward to slice large on the slide and let Chelsea off the hook.