LONDON: If justification was needed for Chelsea’s decision to spend £ 97million to bring in Romelu Lukaku (Photo) Back at Stamford Bridge, the Belgian offered him a master goal on Tuesday.
In their first game of the competition since winning the Champions League against Manchester City in May, Chelsea were frustrated with a well-established Zenit St Petersburg.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta completed a fishing cross towards Lukaku and the Belgian threw his header past goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk.
It was Lukaku’s fourth goal at Chelsea since joining Inter Milan and offered further proof that he could be the key piece in manager Thomas Tuchel’s puzzle this season.
“It was a great header, a well-timed cross from Azpilicueta,” said Germany’s Tuchel, who has transformed Chelsea since replacing Frank Lampard in January.
“That’s why he’s here. He likes to score and he is decisive for us. “
Tuchel can often be a lively figure on the sideline, but he was calm throughout Chelsea’s Group H opener, even when his side struggled to open up the resolute Russians.
Chelsea did not shoot on target in the first half but accelerated after the break.
“It wasn’t frustrating. It was tough against very strong opponents. We had to work very hard. I felt a tremendous amount of intensity from us that we brought to the game, ”said Tuchel.
“We had a little trouble creating chances and shots in the first half. In the second half, it was a little easier to find spaces and shoot. It was a deserved victory. Hard earned. It took us a while to tire them out but I liked what I saw. “
While it wasn’t a dazzling display from Tuchel’s side, it was a 23rd clean sheet since taking charge – more than any other team in Europe’s top five leagues in the same time frame.
And it showed that when they weren’t shooting all cylinders, they could score victories – especially with a poacher like Lukaku offering an old-fashioned route to reach the goal.
“Romelu’s performance was not easy. We didn’t create a lot of chances for him, we didn’t create a lot of deliveries. But he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t lose confidence and conviction. And that’s why he’s here and made him a world-class striker, ”he said.
“It’s not the only talent he brings, he brings confidence and it relieves the shoulders of the other guys around him.” – Reuters