Chelsea vs Zenit result: Champions League score, goals and report
Posted On September 15, 2021
That’s not why Chelsea are European champions, but that’s why they signed Romelu Lukaku.
The forward made the difference again – this 1-0 victory over a resilient Zenit St Petersburg, ensuring his title defense started with some flowering and celebration rather than a disappointing draw.
It was the kind of game you could easily have seen fail last season. They were five in the league under Thomas Tuchel, these draws against fierce opponents who refuse to give up any place. It’s also a difference between last season and now.
While the Champions League was won thanks to some clever tactical calculation – where the small details against the best teams count, in a way that can in fact be more torturous against less important teams – Chelsea now have a more direct option. . They have a rather vintage option. The goal, when it came, was just a classic striker finish.
Cesar Azpilicueta played one of those deep curling centers he loves to try, and Lukaku just put enough space between him and Dmitri Chistyakob to make it home. You don’t need a calculation when you can send it to a sure thing. That’s what Lukaku is becoming, with four goals in four games now.
It was all the more impressive as Zenit had a tactical plan superior to most Premier League sides that Chelsea slipped last season. They really made them work for that, and could even have claimed an equalizer before the end.
Perhaps that was the kind of game Chelsea need to get used to now, the kind of response that becomes more common when you become European champions. It was a classic attack versus defense game.
Zenit had very little interest in getting out of her box and often amassed nine players around her. This made them exceptionally difficult to break. There were three moments in the first half where Mason Mount broke free from the defense tied around him to go straight to a Zenit defender. There were just as many white jerseys within 30 yards of the goal, and they were pretty sturdy in the tackle.
So this was one of those games where the defending team suddenly seems more dangerous, precisely because there is more space at the other end of the pitch. It only takes a break.
Yaroslav Rakitskyy actually got the game’s first shot on target just before half-time, attempting a speculative effort from a distance. Edouard Mendy, winner of the European Goalkeeper of the Year award before kick-off, was naturally the same.
On the other side of half-time, as Chelsea started to get a little finicky about the course of the evening, Sardar Azmoun suddenly found himself rushing on goal. It was only a brilliant interception of Antonio Rudiger, pinching the ball to the side, which prevented some embarrassment for the European champions.
Rudiger was one of the best players on the pitch and provided one of Chelsea’s best moments until the goal. The center-half picked up the ball just outside his own box and then continued to run with it, beating at least two Zenit defenders before it was just inside the other box. His resulting shot flashed right next to it.
As inspired as the race was, it was also an indication of how shredded Zenit was getting. Chelsea might have even been in the lead before Lukaku’s header when Hakim Ziyech appeared to clear into the box. The playmaker’s pass was just behind Lukaku, however. The cross of Azpilicueta was not. It was perfect, as was Lukaku’s little movement to give himself space.
There was another scare for Chelsea when a bullet from Asmoun went through the box for Artem Dzubya to scratch with his crampons as he slipped through it, eventually colliding with Mendy. The keeper was able to stay but looked unwell, and held his side as Tuchel came to comfort him at the end of the match. All around him, however, Chelsea were partying.
The first European game with fans since 2019 also brought a first win of the season and a good start for the champions. Lukaku took them to the next level – and the team as a whole set a standard for the rest of Europe to meet.