Romelu Lukaku sent home a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta in the second half and Chelsea opened the European Cup defense on Tuesday with a 1-0 defeat to Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge.
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The Blues had two-thirds of the ball at home, but the teams combined made just four shots on goal in an affair that showcased the champions’ sturdiness as much as their possession (save for a big, late Zenit chance).
Chelsea will play with Tottenham next Sunday for visits from Aston Villa in the League Cup and Man City in the PL. Then it’s off to Juventus.
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Three things we learned from Chelsea vs Zenit
1. Lukaku Keeps Delivering: All he does is score the first goal in Chelsea wins. Lukaku’s led the way in a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal, took two in a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa, and now Lukaku pushed the Blues past the Zenitchiki. Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross was so beautiful that Lukaku or Kai Havertz could have nodded it home.
His 2021 so far:
Inter Milan – 15 goals in 26 games
Belgium – 10 goals in 11 caps
Chelsea – Four goals in four appearances
2. All things considered, Chelsea’s grip on Tuchel’s system is complete: There were Chelsea players who didn’t excel against the Russian opposition, but none were poor. It’s hard to argue against the idea that Tuchel’s system has been embraced by the entire team now that we’ve seen Lukaku as an ever-present threat on top of the attack.
With a pass of over 91 percent and a doubling of visitors’ passes completed, this was all of Chelsea apart from, well, thing No. 3.
3. Mendy shook off the so-called Zenit equalizer: A cross from Sardar Azmoun between Azpilicueta and Mendy should have been slammed through Artem Dzyuba’s sliding boots, but instead those boots went into the Chelsea goalkeeper’s center after the Zenit sub missed his attempt. Mendy played through after a few minutes of treatment, but the cracks in the backline and bruised abdomen will both be worth keeping an eye on.
Man of the match: Antonio Rudiger
Stable in the back, he also led a wild dribble through the heart of Zenit’s area and was very good with the ball at his feet.
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Chelsea vs Zenit Final Score: Three Things Learned While Lukaku Blues Leads originally appeared on NBCSports.com