Romelu Lukaku scored his first Champions League goal for Chelsea, and his fourth in four games since returning to the club, as his side beat Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 in a tricky tie. The prolific Belgian seems to have an ongoing competition with Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Premier League’s two biggest summer signings are both scoring freely. Earlier in the evening, Ronaldo had scored his third goal in two games in United’s 2-1 loss at Young Boys, before Lukaku edged ahead in the battle of the new boys with the winner at Stamford Bridge.
Zenit had proven a tough nut to crack in the 69 minutes before Lukaku’s goal. Set up in a 4-5-1 formation, Sergei Semak’s side were compact and organised in defence as Chelsea laboured to find a way through. A cagey first half saw the home side dominate possession, but they found few openings against the side whose Krestovsky Stadium will host the final of this competition next May. While they are unlikely to compete in a home final, having never progressed beyond the last 16 of the Champions League, they did give the reigning champions a game tonight.
The second half saw Chelsea begin to enjoy more success on the front foot. Hakim Ziyech drew a good save just after the break, setting the tone for a more positive half from the west London club. Antonio Rudiger got the home fans up off their seats with a blistering run from deep in his own half to the Zenit box, beating several players on the way before dragging a shot wide. Marcos Alonso steered an inviting ball towards Lukaku before it was blocked, and the striker turned creator when he played Reece James in for a shot that went wide.
When the breakthrough came, it was the sort of goal that is synonymous with Romelu Lukaku. Cesar Azpilicueta picked the ball up, and Lukaku moved intelligently towards the back post. When the Spaniard floated in his cross, the former Manchester United man met it with a perfectly weighted header to give Chelsea the lead.
Alonso nearly doubled the advantage, fashioning a chance for himself with an elegant change of feet before steering a shot just wide. Substitute Artem Dzyuba had a gilt-edged opportunity at the other end, but the Russia striker could only get a toe to the ball with the goal gaping. Lukaku nearly added another just before the whistle, a series of clever stepovers bewitching the defence before his shot was blocked.
After an influential performance in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Aston Villa at the weekend, once again Lukaku has proven inspirational for Chelsea. Due to the proximity of their moves, and the fact they both rejoined former clubs, the comparisons to Ronaldo will continue. But the Belgian frontman has proven he can hold his own against his former club’s Portuguese talisman.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Barcelona can take solace in the fact history did not repeat itself, but can take very little else from their 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp. While another 8-2 drubbing never appeared to be on the cards, the Catalan giants were unable to find an answer for the rampant Robert Lewandowski. The Poland striker bagged a brace, with Thomas Muller scoring the other goal in a comprehensive win.
Full Champions League Results
Lille 0-0 Wolfsburg
Sevilla 1-1 RB Salzburg
Young Boys 2-1 Manchester United
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta
Chelsea 1-0 Zenit St Petersburg
Malmo 0-3 Juventus
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich
Dynamo Kyiv 0-0 Benfica