Given Romelu Lukaku’s lack of form, few would dispute Thomas Tuchel’s choice to deploy Kai Havertz in his place in our Champions League’s round of 16 first leg encounter with the French outfit. The decision would soon be justified by Havertz getting a couple of shots at goal in quick succession, showing early on that he was up to the task today.
We would not have to wait much longer for his goal. From a Hakim Ziyech corner, Havertz rose free in the box to head the ball towards the ground. It was the right play to make as it beat goalkeeper Léo Jardim to the punch, opening the score for the hosts at Stamford Bridge.
Lille had to start showing their teeth immediately after. But Chelsea, despite their attacking woes, still have one of the world’s best defences. While players such as Thiago Silva and Antonio Rüdiger are not often flashy in displaying how solid they are in their respective roles, it is impossible to ignore them when they make key interventions in a span of few seconds.
Chelsea tried to remain in control. However the visitors had different plans, mostly thanks to Renato Sanches and his runs down our left flank. But even though Lille would finish the first half with more attempts at goal (9) than the hosts (5), they were only able to hit the target once. Havertz himself had two of those in the first eight minutes of the game!
In the second half, Chelsea came with attacking intent out of the gate. A second goal could be very difficult to find with Mateo Kovacic and then Ziyech falling to injury. But doubters would be proven wrong quickly by N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic, combining to add a second in favour of the Blues.
- Romelu Lukaku is on the bench today, with Thomas Tuchel blaming ‘tiredness’ as the main motivator for his decision. In his stead we have Kai Havertz upfront, with Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech on the flanks.
- Subs are Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Mateo Kovacic, Saúl for Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner for Christian Pulisic, and Malang Sarr in place of Marcos Alonso.
- In big games, Havertz comes up big.
- Even though we did not have as much possession as we often do in these types of games, we never really felt threatened by Lille in the first half despite Tuchel’s (rightful) anger at his players. Defence makes champions, after all!
- Will we ever have the privilege of an injury-free first-team squad?
- Next up: Liverpool at Wembley in the League Cup final.