Chelsea notched yet another victory and yet another clean sheet on Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge as we began our campaign to defend our Champions League crown, but it was a far from easy 90 minutes under the bright lights.
A lone second half goal from Romelu Lukaku proved to be the difference between the two sides, and while that may not sound too impressive on paper, the Russian Premier League champions did not make it easy on us at all. Head coach Thomas Tuchel was happy enough with the job ... done.
“I am happy in general with the performance. It was a tough match against a strong opponent. It was tough for us in the first half to find little gaps, accelerate the game, be dangerous and create touches in the box ball.
“We played with a high intensity and had many ball recoveries. We had to be focused and aware with our defence because they have a lot of individual quality upfront. We did all that and in second half we found it easier to find spaces in between the lines, to accelerate, create half-chances, deliveries.”
Zenit presented a very different challenge than Aston Villa did just 72 hours prior. Whereas Villa matched our intensity with pressing and positive play, Zenit sat back in classic style, with every man behind the ball in a compact, deep defensive shape. Breaking them down was never going to be easy, and the longer it took, the harder it would get.
“There are many reasons we are maybe not at our top level at the moment. But right now with pre-season, international breaks, and so on, I am happy with how we play and feel we are very competitive.
“We are able to handle difficulties in matches and today I liked what I have seen on the sidelines. They are a strong opponent and we have accept to respect them. They changed their line-ups, their mentality when they arrived when they played us, we need to adapt and find solutions. This is what we do at the moment.”
But we stayed patient and eventually got he one moment of quality that mattered, again delivered by that man Romelu Lukaku, for his fourth goal in four game since returning to the club.
“The performance from Romelu was not easy. We didn’t create many chances for him, we did not create many deliveries. But he’s the type of guy who doesn’t lose confidence and belief. And that is why he is here and makes him a world-class striker.”
“[We] are very pleased because he gives everybody around him confidence. It is the best start for strikers to score, to be decisive. There is no talk, no video, that can have the same impact.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
We get a few days to recover now before Sunday’s trip across town to Tottenham, in which we’ll need a few more impactful performances.
Onwards and upwards!