Football news - Romelu Lukaku hero again as Chelsea squeak past determined Zenit St Petersburg
Champions League Group H, Stamford Bridge – Chelsea 1 (Lukaku 69’) Zenit St Petersburg 0
Chelsea's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Chelsea and Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge in London on September 14, 2021. (Photo by
Romelu Lukaku scored his fourth goal in four games as Chelsea began the defence of their Champions League trophy with a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Zenit St Petersburg.
Thomas Tuchel made five changes to the side that beat Aston Villa, including dropping new signing Saul Niguez, and the German cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as his team had an off night with their passing.
The Russians defended solidly and compactly, restricting the Blues to few opportunities and it took them 47 minutes to register their first shot on target.
Chelsea's German defender Antonio Rudiger (R) runs away from Zenit St. Petersburg's Russian midfielder Daler Kuzyaev (L) during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Chelsea and Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge in London on Septem
Image credit: Getty Images
Tuchel brought on Champions League final hero Kai Havertz for the disappointing Hakim Ziyech on the hour mark and their tempo improved.
They eventually broke the deadlock with Cesar Azpilicueta's cross headed in from close range by Romelu Lukaku, reward for the Belgian's work-rate and hold up play.
Zenit brought on Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Erokhin in the closing stages and the former missed a golden opportunity to equalise, toe-poking an effort wide from close range, as the home side held on.
'Lukaku's belief takes pressure off others' - Tuchel
Lukaku providing the Blues with cutting edge.
Chelsea were far from their best as an attacking force. And it was the Belgian who again proved to be the difference, continuing his goalscoring form from his two seasons with Inter Milan.
Similar to last season, the Blues are keeping cleansheets but they now have a targetman and a focal point who has the strength to bring other players into the game and is more clinical with his finishing than Timo Werner to get them out of a hole when they have an off night.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wilmar Barrios (Zenit): The Colombian midfielder got the better of Ziyech and Mount for the most part with his work rate, tackling and positional play. He supported his defenders brilliantly and was unfortunate to come away with nothing from the game.
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14: Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea is tackled by Wilmar Barrios of Zenit St. Petersburg during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and Zenit St. Petersburg at Stamford Bridge on September 14, 2021 in London,