Match Report: Chelsea 2-0 Lille: Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic goals put Blues in control in Champions League

The knockout stages of the tournament that brought such joy to Chelsea last season returned on Tuesday evening and it was normal service resumed for the Blues against a competitive Lille.

An early goal from Kai Havertz helped to settle any nerves before Christian Pulisic rounded off proceedings in the second half and leave Lille needing a big performance in three weeks’ time to turn this tie around.

Stamford Bridge on Champions League night as Chelsea beat Lille 2-0.
Stamford Bridge on Champions League night as Chelsea beat Lille 2-0.

Chelsea vs Lille: Team News

The standout news from the Chelsea camp was the fact that Romelu Lukaku had been dropped to the bench after Saturday, somewhat unsurprisingly after the media reaction and that from Thomas Tuchel himself.

Away from the Belgian, and Tuchel has shifted back to the tried and tested back three with Andreas Christensen moving to centre back and captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso back as the wing backs. One further change saw the inform Croatian Mateo Kovacic replace Jorginho. Also, Mason Mount was back amongst the substitutes after his injury.

Whereas for Lille they have made five changes from their final group stage game against Wolfsburg back in December. All of Leo Jardim, Tiago Djalo, Xeka, Amadou Onana and Jonathan Bamba come into the side at the expense of Ivo Grbic, Renan Lodi, Gabriel Gudmundsson, Jonathan Ikone and Burak Yilmaz.

First Half

After the disappointing performance against Crystal Palace on Saturday, a fast start would’ve been on the minds of many fans and Chelsea did just that.

Only 40 seconds had passed as Marcos Alonso impressively shifted the ball onto his left to beat the Lille press and send Pulisic away. Moments later a one tow between Azpilicueta and Hakim Ziyech, released the Spaniard whose fizzed ball across the six yard box was steered over by Havertz. However, the pain wouldn’t last long.

The German won a corner in the seventh minute after getting half a yard on his man and firing an effort across Jardim and from that corner rose unopposed to meet Ziyech’s ball and confidently head the Blues 1-0 in front.

Lille started to grow into the game with several quick and tidy interchanges in the Chelsea half. They nearly found themselves level not long after Chelsea’s opener in an unlikely manner as Antonio Rüdiger’s attempted clearance was sliced and nearly looped over Edouard Mendy.

However, the previous dominant pattern resumed in the following minutes as Chelsea continued to control possession but failed to create any clear cut chances with Alonso shooting straight at the keeper and Ziyech not getting the ball under his spell at the pivotal moment.

Both of those chances were created by N’golo Kante and despite some errant passes here and there, his energy and desire to win the ball back in the middle of the park broke up many a Lille attack and try to keep the Blues on the front foot as the tide began to shift the way of the away side.

That momentum was being generated by Renato Sanches, who was at the centre of a lot of good for the French side. Mostly from the right hand side he found space in between the lines and caused Chelsea’s defence many an issue. It was his ball that Rüdiger nearly steered in and then as half time approached, he saw a right footed effort climb over the crossbar.

HT: Chelsea 1-0 Lille

Second Half

If you thought the first half started quickly, then it felt like the second got underway at 200 miles per hour as Chelsea had two half chances and Lille one during the first 60 seconds. Unfortunately for the neutral that pace wasn’t to be maintained as it fell back into the regular pattern of Chelsea dictating play.

Once again it was Kante at the heart creating chances for the hosts as his ball found Alonso at the back post and he forced Jardim into a smart reaction save with his volley.

Shortly afterwards, Havertz showcased the qualities that many Chelsea fans see in him with a powerful driving run into the Lille half without any support. A nice stop and go allowed him to beat his man but he fired his shot over from a tight angle.

Whilst this passage of play was fruitful in terms of output for Chelsea it came at a significant cost as both Kovacic and Ziyech hobbled off down the tunnel. They were replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul Niguez. The mood would soon be lifted once again though.

On the sixty third minute, Kante broke the lines with, yet another driving forward run, and he slipped in Pulisic who made no mistake in lifting it past Jardim and into the far corner to double the lead. Saul’s introduction played a big role in this goal as the extra body in midfield allowed the American to push further up the pitch and closer to Havertz and take advantage of Kante’s central run.

In many ways that goal killed any life left in the game as despite Lille desperately searching for a goal that would get them back into the tie, they failed to properly test Edouard Mendy on any occasion as his work was limited to a couple simple catches. The aura of the defending champions started to reign strong as ole’s rang out around the ground and Havertz pulled off a couple of audacious flicks.

Lille’s evening was perhaps best summed up by Gudmundsson’s first time effort on the volley in the 91st minute that went into the upper tier of the Shed End and capped off a good evening’s work for Chelsea in the first leg.

FT: Chelsea 2-0 Lille

Written by Harrison Burridge (@hburridge2)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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