Updated: Feb 28
Kai Havertz opened the scoring as Chelsea took firm control of their European tie with Ligue 1 champions.
Written by Ryan Bellenie (@BellenieSport).
With the Champions League returning last week, Chelsea prepared to defend their crown against French champions Lille in the first leg of their tie at Stamford Bridge.
Since taking over the Blues last January, Chelsea have lost just one cup game under Thomas Tuchel – which came in the FA Cup final at Wembley last May. In contrast to their excellent cup form, Lille have endured a tough 2021/22 campaign – currently sat 11th in Ligue 1.
That being said, this is ‘Les Dogues’’s first time in the last 16 of Europe’s biggest competition since 2007. Although they’re up against the current title holders, the French club aimed to use the pace of their attack to cause an upset at The Bridge on a mild Tuesday night.
After a disappointing performance against Crystal Palace, Romelu Lukaku dropped to the bench in one of three Chelsea changes. Captain César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso were the other two rotations made by Thomas Tuchel, with the Spanish duo operating as wing-backs as the Blues reverted back to a five-man defence.
The two sides have met on two previous occasions, with Chelsea winning both games 2-1.
In the opening minutes, the hosts had a glorious chance to open their account as César Azpilicueta’s cross found Kai Havertz. The German however poked the ball over the bar from close range, leaving a glorious chance to go to waste.
The Chelsea striker however remained resilient and had a well struck effort saved by Léo Jardim just two minutes. The resulting corner proved successful for the 22-year-old, who eventually found the first goal by nestling the net with a well-timed header.
After the goal, there were on-target efforts from Marcos Alonso and Benjamin André, but both shots were comfortable saved by the opposing goalkeepers.
Although Lille looked bright moving forward, the French champions lacked the quality to break Chelsea down and instead remained vulnerable at the back. In fact, the closest Lille came to an opener was a scuffed clearance from Antonio Rüdiger which nearly resulted in a bizarre equaliser on the 11th minute.
With their opponents failing to cause any real threat, Chelsea took a comfortable 1-0 lead into the half-time break.
The first half was nothing short of entertaining with the second 45 minutes resembling the action that we had just seen. Chelsea had a firm grip on the game from the opening whistle and refused to let go off the points by constantly looking the more dangerous of the two teams.
However, before the hour mark in the game, Thomas Tuchel was forced into making two changes due to injuries, with both Mateo Kovačić and Hakim Ziyech unable to continue.
However, shortly after Ziyech’s departure, the Blues went on to double their lead through Christian Pulisic. The American took his chance and finished well to give the European Champions an extra cushion heading into the second leg of the tie.
From here on the action began to wind down, with Chelsea sealing a top performance that makes them hot favourites to reach the last eight of the Champions League.
After the Whistle:
Despite the injuries, the game went exactly how Thomas Tuchel would’ve hoped.
The Blue’s looked like worthy winners from the opening whistle as they broke down Lille’s vulnerable defence through slick movement and clinical finishing. With Kai Havertz replacing the out-of-form Romelu Lukaku, Tuchel’s decision paid off as the German provided something different in Chelsea’s attacks.
Although the statistics resemble what seemed a balanced game, the truth couldn’t of been any more different as Chelsea controlled the game until the very last kick.
It goes without saying, but the Blues will look to take the momentum from their previous few games into Sunday’s clash with Liverpool, with silverware on the line once again.
Over the next few weeks, Lille will instead divert their attention towards domestic football where they look to build form ahead of the second leg at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on March 16th.
Chelsea 2-0 Lille.
- Havertz (8’).
- Pulisic (63’).
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Christensen; Silva, Rüdiger; Azpilicueta ©, Kanté, Kovačić (51’), Alonso (80’); Ziyech (60’), Havertz, Pulisic (80’).
- Subs: Loftus-Cheek (51’), Saúl (60’), Sarr (80’), Werner (80’).
Lille (4-2-3-1): Jardim; Çelik, Fonte, Botman, Djalo (76’); Xeka, André; Sanches (81’), Onana (65’), Bamba; David (81’).
- Subs: Yilmaz (65’), Gudmundsson (76’), Ben Arfa (81’), Zhegrova (81’).
Jesús Gil Manzano.
Chelsea (51%) vs Lille (49%).
Chelsea (9) vs Lille (15).
Shots on Target:
Chelsea (4) vs Lille (2).
Chelsea (4) vs Lille (6).
Chelsea (10) vs Lille (6).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | BT Sport).