Champions League holders Chelsea got their new campaign off to a flying start when they beat Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday thanks to Romelu Lukaku’s goal.
Thomas Tuchel’s side have struggled to break down the Russian champions in their first Champions League match since beating Manchester City in last year’s final in Porto.
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After the match, Tuchel said of his talisman: “I do not want to be moody now-we also won matches without Romelu and we produced results. But he was the type of guy we were missing in our team, the type of profile. Not only for his talent but the personality.He’s a super humble guy, he loves football, he loves to train and is such a good communicator in the locker room.
“He is open to everyone and it creates a certain atmosphere and energy around the team that we are also proud of that we want because we believe in it. The atmosphere and spirit last year took us very, very far. It is is very important, we have it again and we have it with Romelu because he loves Chelsea, he knows what this club is about. “
Zenit created the first meaningful chance in 38 minutes when Yaroslav Rakitskyi curled his effort straight against Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy while Lukaku struck a header over.
Chelsea improved after the break and created three quick chances as Hakim Ziyech, Lukaku and Antonio Rudiger all went close.
The breakthrough came in the 69th minute when Lukaku rose to his head from a Cesar Azpilicueta post.
“So it’s more than just talent [Lukaku] brings, “said Tuchel.” He brings faith. He has faith himself and he takes pressure from the other guys shoulders around him. He has the personality not to be impatient or to lose confidence. He does what he does and this is at a very high level and we are very happy that he is with us.
“We did not create many chances for him, many deliveries, but he is the type who does not lose confidence or faith. That is what makes him a world – class striker.
Artem Dzyuba leveled the score after 80 minutes to make it 1 – 0, as Sardar Azmoun struck home after a fine midfield combination through the center, which left him completely unmarked. Mendy demanded temporary treatment after the collision.