Chelsea 1 Zenit 0: Romelu Lukaku grabs first Blues Champions League goal as Tuchel's side make winning start to defence

ROMELU LUKAKU struck the blow which means Chelsea escape the embarrassment of falling flat on their big night out as European champions.

The unstoppable new striker finally broke the deadlock with 21 minutes to go for his fourth goal in as many games since re-signing in the summer.

But it cannot mask a frustrating night for Chelsea who had hoped to sparkle under the lights and steamroller Russian cannon fodder to kick off the defence of their Champions League crown.

Lukaku’s headed winner was only the second shot on target for the team everybody wants to slap down in Europe this season.

The team which claimed the biggest prize in world club football strolled out to fizz-popping fireworks and the belief they would stroll to an easy win.

Instead, the fans were treated to football’s equivalent of soft rain falling on to the embers of a dying bonfire.

For boss Thomas Tuchel, who warned against his team getting complacent following their epic triumph in May, it was a tough night.

It is not unusual to see a fully grown German man slapping his thighs and shouting at the top of his voice.



However, this was not Tuchel enjoying a traditional night of entertainment back in his homeland while dressed in leather shorts.

This was Chelsea’s manager smacking his long, spindly legs in frustration as his team’s defence of the Champions League title fell way short of expectations.

With knee raised, arms waving, clapping above his head to try to drag some life out of his players, Chelsea’s spectacular start to the season hit the buffers.

What was supposed to be a giant party interspersed by a rollover match, the awkward Russians stood up to the previously ruthless Blues for more than an hour.

In that time, only waspish winger Hakim Ziyech managed to pierce the Zenit defence with a shot that was comfortably saved.

And it comes to something when centre-half Antonio Rudiger becomes one of the most potent attackers with his crazy run three minutes later.

It was almost as if the powerful defender had seen enough and took matters into his own hands.

Taking possession of the ball just his side of the centre circle, Rudiger ploughed his way upfield more than 50 yards, with a dizzying dribble that looked like Ronaldo.

Sadly, when it came to doing the business end with his eyes fixed on the Zenit goal, Rudiger reverted to type and shot like Ronaldo’s mum from just inside the box to send the ball wide.

That kind of sums up the night Chelsea endured: never really in trouble but never really in control either.


Even though Tuchel recalled some of his big guns to add some sparkle to a fixture that struggled to get the juices flowing, despite the occasion.

Mason Mount starting in any team, whether for Chelsea or England, should make for a minimum level of swashbuckle and attacking style.

But even the rakish forward struggled to impose his individual quality on the game for a sustained period – at least during the first half.

Tuchel’s other devilish winger Kai Havertz, the guy who scored the goal to win the Champions League for Chelsea, was rested but it was a pretty much first choice line-up other than that.

Yet the Russians’ impressive organisation, resoluteness in defence and surprising composure going forwards, made it a far less comfortable evening than it should have been on paper.

It is early days in the season on both the domestic and European fronts.

But having targeted £97.5million of investment into formidable striker Lukaku, it is already unusual for them to endure a whole 45 minutes without mustering a shot on target.

The most notable threats from Tuchel’s champions in the first half were forcing Zenit keeper Stanislav Kritsyuk into pawing away a couple of swerving balls as they drifted aimlessly on to his patch in the six-yard box.

Tuchel will not have enjoyed what he saw last night but will obviously be pleased that his team got off to a winning start in a long campaign.

He wants his players to have even more hunger than last season. He is demanding that winning the European Cup against Manchester City does not make them subconsciously sit back on their laurels.

It is something he will re-iterate to them tomorrow when the squad rocks up at the Surrey training ground for a warm down and a debrief.

Chelsea could only manage two shots on target all night against the weakest team in their group – and at home.

Even Lukaku, who is scoring for fun at the moment, shot feebly wide when put through in the dying minutes of the game.

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