Chelsea 1-0 Zenit St Petersburg: Champions League – as it happened

By Paul Doyle
Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their first goal.
Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters

Match report and analysis

Tuchel's verdict

“It was not tough, not frustrating. They are a very strong opponent so we had to work really hard to get high-ball recoveries, which we did. I felt we brought huge intensity to the game ... We struggled a little bit to create chances and shots in the first half; the second half it was a bit easier for us to find spaces. It was a deserved win but it was hard work against the Russian champions. It took us a while to make them tired with our intensity ... It was hard for them to constantly defend all the spaces. It was a goof experience ... Winning and another clean sheet is super-important for the belief.”

On Lukaku’s goal he says: “It was an excellent header ... That’s why he’s here. He likes to score and he was again decisive for us, which is great.”

Full-time: Chelsea 1-0 Zenit

That was a tough workout for Chelsea against tidy and industrious visitors. The home side’s passing was often sloppy and their play sometimes slow, but when Azpilicueta stuck up an inviting cross for Lukaku, the striker showed his class by finishing expertly.

90+4 min: Santos slides in to deny Lukaku a second goal. The striker slaps his own forehead in frustration. But he needn’t worry: his earlier goal has given Chelsea maximum points from their first match of their Champions League defence.

90+2 min: Chelsea substitution: Loftus-Cheek on, Mount off.

90 min: There will be at least four more minutes. Chelsea look minded to keep the ball for that whole time.

Romelu Lukaku surges forward.
Romelu Lukaku surges forward. Photograph: Dave Shopland/IPS/Shutterstock

Updated

89 min: Zenit are basically playing 3-3-4 now as they seek a late equaliser. But Chelsea are keeping them at bay comfortably now.

86 min: Zenit substitutions: Mostovoy and Krugovoi on, Claudinho and Rakistkiy off

83 min: Chelsea are just trying to draw the sting out of this now, lest Zenit be emboldened by that glaring chance they had moments ago. A bit of slow, taunting keep-ball should dampen their vim.

80 min: Chelsea substitutions: here comes Ben Chilwell for the first time this season! He replaces Alonso. And Thiago Silva trots on in place of Azpilicueta.

Zenit substitution: Kravtso on, Kuzyaev off.

79 min: What a miss! Zenit should have scored on their first outings downfield for ages. Azmoun rolled the ball across the face of goal. Dyzuba has the run on Azpilicueta and lunges at the ball ... but he can only get a toe to it and prod it wide from close range! And he slides on in to Mendy, catching the keeper with both feet in the chest. Treatment required.

Zenit St. Petersburg’s Artem Dzyuba (right) collides with Chelsea’s keeper Edouard Mendy after sending the ball the wrong side of the upright.
Zenit St. Petersburg’s Artem Dzyuba (right) collides with Chelsea’s keeper Edouard Mendy after sending the ball the wrong side of the upright. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

76 min: Zenit substitutions: Dzyuba on and Erokhin, Malcolm and Wendel off.

75 min: Mount tries to emulate Azpilicueta by picking out Lukaku from the right. But his cross is too close to the keeper.

73 min: Chelsea want another one. They jamming the foot down on Zenit now, intent on finishing them off.

GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Zenit (Lukaku 69)

And just like that, Chelsea break through at least! Azpilicueta curled in a cross from the right, and Lukaku leapt between two defenders to guide a downward header into the net from six yards. That was the best pass he’s been given all night, and he has finished it like a master.

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea beats Dmitri Chistyakov of Zenit St. Petersburg to score the Blues’ first goal.
Romelu Lukaku beats Dmitri Chistyakov of Zenit St. Petersburg in the air ... Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images
Romelu Lukaku heads Chelsea in o the lead.
And powers a header goalwards ... Photograph: Chloe Knott/Danehouse/Getty Images
Zenit St. Petersburg’s keeper Stanislav Kritsyuk cannot stop a header from Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku (not pictured) beating him for the only goal of the game.
And past Zenit St. Petersburg’s keeper Stanislav Kritsyuk to give Chelsea the lead. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, substitutes, staff and fans celebrate after Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel, substitutes, staff and fans celebrate after Lukaku’s goal. Photograph: John Walton/PA

Updated

68 min: Rakistkiy makes yet another precious interception, this time cutting out a pass by Havertz that would have put Lukaku in the clear.

66 min: Rakistkiy sticks out a foot to prod the ball off the toes of Havertz and give Chelsea a corner. Alonso delivers ... Christyakov clears.

64 min: Alonso bends the freekick towards the back post. The keeper palms the ball off the head of Havertz and is lucky to have a freekick awarded in his favour.

63 min: Rakistkiy, who has had a brilliant game, makes his first error, mistiming a tackle on Mount to give Chelsea a freekick just outside the right-hand corner of the box. Before it’s taken, Tuchel makes his first substitutions: Havertz on, Ziyech off.

61 min: Wendel sends Azmoun racing through. Could Zenit be about to shock Chelsea on the counter? No, because Rüdiger dashes across to intervene, swiping the ball away just as the forward was winding up his shot at the edge of the box.

59 min: Still too many loose passes from Chelsea, which contrast with Zenit’s meticulous defending.

56 min: Mount rolls it into Lukaku, who holds it up and then rolls it through to James, who bangs it into the sidenetting.

55 min: Alonso picks out Ziyech in space in the Zenit box for the first time. Ziyech spins sharply, jigs to the byline and then pulls it back towards the penalty spot ... where a Zenit defender picks it up and plays it away.

54 min: Christensen heads away a corner at the near post. Santos fetches it about 25 yards out and tries to send a rocket into the top corner, but succeeds only in finding an advertising board several yards to the right of the target.

53 min: Rather than inspire Chelsea, that Rüdiger burst seems to have convinced Zenit to take a bit more initiative. They’ve spent the last couple of minutes in Chelsea territory, probing busily.

50 min: James flings a throw-in to Rüdiger deep in Chelsea territory. The German channels his inner Beckenbauer and strides forward, gliding past two defender and into the opposing box, whereupon he blasts just wide! That’s sure stirred the crowd though! Will it inspire the rest of Chelsea’s player to find a higher gear?

Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea evades the challenge of Wilmar Barrios of Zenit St. Petersburg before shooting wide.
Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea evades the challenge of Wilmar Barrios of Zenit St. Petersburg before shooting wide. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

Updated

47 min: Lukaku collects the ball with his back to goal just outside the box. Mount darts forward to his right and the striker tries to slip it through to him, but a defender pokes it away ... to Ziyech, who opens fire from 20 yards. The keeper gets down to stop his low drive.

46 min: No changes by either side during the break. Zenit’s players perform a huddle on the pitch and then kick off.

Chelsea 0-0 Zenit

The Russians will be happy with that: they’ve contained Chelsea very well, offering up no clear chances while occasionally threatening on the break.

44 min: Ziyech leads a counter-attack, charging forward down the left. As a defender looks to catch him, he nudges the ball on to Mount, who tries to pick out Lukaku in the middle ... but shanks it out of play instead. Mount’s passing has been uncharacteristcally loose so far today.

42 min: Chelsea complete lots of passes around the Zenit box but never really look like infiltrating it. The visitors are very well organised and industrious.

40 min: Ziyech curls in a corner from right. The keeper, under pressure from Lukaku and Rudiger, punches it as far as the penalty spot, and a defender completes the clearance.

38 min: Chelsea clear a corner. Rakitskiy retrieves it just outside t he box and bends a good left-footed shot around Azpilicueta ... but into the arms of Mendy.

Zenit St Petersbug’s Yaroslav Rakitskiy shoots at goal.
Zenit St Petersbug’s Yaroslav Rakitskiy shoots at goal. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Updated

36 min: Mount, for the second time in two minutes, mislays a pass when attempting to send a teammate clear.

34 min: Claudinho messes up a promising counter-attack by choosing the wrong option and then misplacing his pass, anyway. Chelsea tear forward and Alonso wins a corner, which is headed away at the near post.

32 min: Chelsea force Zenit into coughing up possession in their own half - a rarity so far - and then quickly zip the ball in to Lukaku. But his cross-shot from the left is blocked.

30 min: James feints past his man on the right and then bangs in a low cross. Rakistkiy slides in to hook it clear.

27 min: Zenit have disrupted Chelsea pretty well so far. The hosts are struggling for fluency and are finding it tough to get the ball back when they lose it.

Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea battles with Sardar Azmoun of Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea battles with Sardar Azmoun of Zenit Saint Petersburg. Photograph: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

Updated

25 min: Kovacic beats his man in midfield with a lovely swerve and dash. Then he offloads to Ziyech, who tries to do something similar at the edge of the area. But a fine sliding tackle by Barrios brings an unceremonious end to that scheming.

23 min: Jorginho pings a low pass from midfield through to Lukaku in the box. The Belgian holds it up and then knocks it back for Ziyech, who lets fly from the edge of the area. It’s blocked.

21 min: Mount, picking the ball up just outside the area, slips it through to Lukaku. A buzz goes around the ground as fans anticipate another net-burster ... but Zenit are wise to the him and quickly crowd out the striker before he can get off a shot.

18 min: Jorginho catches Claudinho late, giving Zenit a freekick mid-way inside the Chelsea half. Rakitskiy lofts it wide to Santos, who feeds it back for Kuzyaev. The midfielder elects to shoot from 30 yards. And as the ball wafts into the stand, we are reminded that elections don’t always yield a good outcome.

15 min: The authority that Chelsea may have thought they’d established earlier has evaporated, because Zenit are busy, deft and confident. Not sure how sharp they are but they’re giving Chelsea plenty to think about.

Andreas Christensen of Chelsea in action.
Andreas Christensen of Chelsea in action. Photograph: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Getty Images

Updated

12 min: Azmoun meets a cross from the right and flicks it on to Claudinho at the back post. The forward takes it down on his chest ... which gives James just enough time to sneak in and poke the ball behind for a corner. Which Zenit waste.

11 min: Rakitskiy steps into midfield and flights a dainty pass towards Azmoun. Christensen keeps his eye on it while backpedalling, and then heads it to safety before the striker could collect.

9 min: Zenit relieve the pressure with a very tidy move forward. They worked their way from back to front very well until Azmoun miscontrolled at the edge of the Chelsea area.

6 min: Lukaku gets involved for the first time, receiving the ball at the edge of the D and trying to lay it back for Jorginho. It’s intercepted. But Chelsea seem to have found their stride and have penned Zenit into their own half for the last two or three minutes.

4 min: Chelsea knock the ball around a bit, with no particular aim other than to curb the visitors’ perkiness.

2 min: Rüdiger, as ever, is up for the challenge: a Zenit player tries to shuffle past him near the left-hand byline but the German steps in, eases him of the ball and punts it downfield in the general direction of Mount.

1 min: Chelsea kick off. Zenit immediately show they mean business by harassing their hosts high up, causing some uncomfortable moments for Christensen, in particular, before Chelsea welly clear.

Before kickoff, the Uefa president hands out some awards: Edouard Mendy collects one for being the best keeper in last season’s tournament; then Ngolo Kanté, Jorginho and Tuchel get some gongs too.

There’s some fireworks to entertain the fans at Stamford Bridge too.
There’s some fireworks to entertain the fans at Stamford Bridge too. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

The teams line up to pay their respects to the official Champions League jingle. Chelsea are decked out in blue, of course, while Zenit are wearing white and the officials are sporting red tops and black shorts and socks.

Tuchel speaks

The Chelsea manager says that he has made five changes to the side that started against Aston Villa last weekend because the newcomers are all fresh, and confirms that Mount and Ziyech will serve as “half-strikers”.

Teams

Chelsea: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rüdiger; James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Ziyech; Lukaku

Subs: Kepa, Bergstrom, Silva, Sarr, Chilwell, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Saul Niguez, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz

Zenit: Kritsyuk; Sutormin, Christakov, Rakitskyy, Douglas Santos; Malcolm, Wendel, Barrios, Kuzaev, Claudinho; Azmoun

Subs: Kerzhakov, Odoevski, Krugovoi, Mostovy, Erokhin, Dzyuba, Kravtsov, Khotulev

Referee: B Frankowski

Preamble

Hello and welcome to the start of Chelsea’s attempt to match the feats of grand clubs such as Nottingham Forest, Ajax and Benfica by defending their European crown. Chelsea’s only previous effort brought abysmal failure, as they were ousted at the group stage and their manager, Roberto Di Matteo, was given the heave-ho even before the end of that. En garde, Herr Tuchel!

That said, this Chelsea side is very different to the one that lifted the Champions League trophy in 2012. Back then, the team were reaching the end of a cycle, and Didier Drogba departed soon after. By contrast, this Chelsea team is on the rise, last season’s Champions League triumph heralding the start of a new era of conquest rather than a culmination; and they are driven by a striker, Romelu Lukaku, at the peak of his powers and served by a glittering cast of creators. Chelsea have the most complete squad in England, a savvy manager and a seriously ominous look about them.

As for Zenit St Petersburg, since beating Rangers in the 2008 Uefa Cup and Manchester United in that year’s Super Cup, they’ve made frustratingly little headway in Europe. They’ve got out of the Champions League group stages three times but then fallen each time in the next round – once to Dortmund and twice to the good old Benfica. They finished bottom of their group in each of the last two seasons. But they have started their domestic league well – top after seven matches – and can stoke themselves with tales of their only previous victory away to English opposition. Remember that? Of course you do, it was against Bradford City in the 2000 Intertoto Cup. Humdinger ahoy!


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