With plenty of scrutiny on the lack of production in the Chelsea attack, manager Thomas Tuchel benched star forward Romelu Lukaku and his replacements came through in the first of a Champions League Round of 16 series against Lille. Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic scored in each half to send the Blues to a comfortable 2-0 win.
Havertz headed home from a corner kick after just eight minutes as Chelsea came out of the gates in commanding fashion, passing through Lille’s press with ease. But Lille would grow into the game, often testing Chelsea’s wingbacks with overloads in wide areas.
As the visitors’ confidence grew, they pressed their hosts higher up the pitch and committed more bodies forward. Renato Sanches and Jonathan Bamba were bright at times, regularly swapping flanks, but throughout the game they couldn’t find the final ball and Canadian international Jonathan David had a quiet game.
It was a difficult start to the second half for Chelsea, as the Blues lost both Mateo Kovacic, and then Hakim Ziyech, through injury.
MORE: Why Romelu Lukaku was benched vs. Lille
Chelsea needed another goal to put their minds at ease and Pulisic’s goal in the 63rd minute felt like it put an end to the contest, as he finished a swift counter with composure.
Although Lille didn’t give up, they never felt like really threatening Edouard Mendy’s goal, with Chelsea center back Thiago Silva on hand to cover on the few occasions the visitors got into dangerous positions.
While the series isn’t over at 2-0, LOSC Lille will have their work cut out for them to overturn the deficit when it’s their turn to host the second leg.
For Tuchel, the match will have proven a solid confidence booster heading into the the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on Sunday. It will be another opportunity for silverware after Chelsea came away with the European Super Cup last August and the FIFA Club World Cup earlier in February.
MORE: Neymar says he wants to play in the USA
Chelsea vs. Lille final score
CHE — Kai Havertz (Hakim Ziyech) — 8th min.
CHE — Christian Pulisic (N’Golo Kante) — 63rd min.
(All times Eastern)
Final: Chelsea 2, Lille 0
Full-time: That’s your lot! Chelsea take control of the tie with a two-goal win. It was comfortable for the Londoners in the end.
93rd min: Lille are still trying here, but they just haven’t been able to turn their attacks into chances in this game. It’s all meat and drink to this Chelsea defense so far.
91st min: Kante gives away a free kick for a handball, and it’s the only thing that’s gone wrong for him all game. The fourth official holds up his board, five minutes of time added on. Lille have another corner, which comes to nothing.
THE RUN FROM N’GOLO KANTE.
THE FINISH FROM CHRISTIAN PULISIC. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/VA8Mgf1Vqa
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 22, 2022
87th min: That’s a second booking, as Ben Arfa brings down Timo Werner who was looking to break away after a couple of Lille corners. Chelsea have the ball again, as the final whistle creeps closer.
84th min: Ruben Loftus-Cheek picks up the first booking of the game. It’s been pretty clean so far. The game has become a little stretched, but it feels like there could be another goal in this one with the space both teams are leaving.
81st min: It’s all change as Renato Sanches and Jonathan David come off for Hatem Ben Arfa and Zhegrova. Azpilicueta has put in a couple of dangerous crosses, while Lille continue to carry a threat on the counter.
78th min: Djalo has come off for Gudmundsson, while Chelsea bring on Werner for Pulisic, and Malang Sarr comes on for Marcos Alonso.
76th min: The home fans aren’t happy after Sven Botman goes shoulder to shoulder with Kai Havertz. The Chelsea goalscorer ends up crashing into an advertising hoarding.
73rd min: Jardim tries to clip a pass out to his left back and slices the pass, finding Kante. Chelsea establish possession and end up winning a corner, which is headed clear. Renato Sanches carries the ball on the counter, but is tracked all the way by Christian Pulisic who manages to stop him at the expense of a throw in. The Chelsea man is hobbling slightly, but looks like he’ll run it off.
70th min: Jonathan Bamba is still going, cutting in from the left and seeing his shot blocked for a corner. He takes the set piece, which is headed back towards the corner flag by Loftus-Cheek. Bamba gets a second attempt to deliver, and finds Sven Botman who can only really direct a weak header into the hands of Mendy.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 22, 2022
66th min: Thomas Tuchel will be hoping that his team don’t took their foot off the pedal, as they did after scoring their first goal. Burak Yilmaz is on for the hosts, replacing Amadou Onana who didn’t effect the game that much.
63rd min: GOAL!
It’s Pulisic who finishes off a clinical Chelsea counter. N’Golo Kante drives forward with the ball, as he has done all night, before playing in Pulisic on his left. The American, on his right foot, places a composed finish past Jardim into the far corner.
62nd min: Ziyech is off for Saul, which might indicate a reshuffle of some sort. Thomas Tuchel didn’t need these injury concerns with a cup final at the weekend.
58th min: Ziyech, like Kovacic before him, does not look very comfortable, as he hobbles around on the sideline. On the pitch, Havertz wins it back in midfield and breaks through on goal. He’s forced wide though, and with nobody up with him he can only shoot wide from a tight angle. Ziyech is back on the pitch, and he’s down again.
57th min: Hakim Ziyech is down injured now, while Romelu Lukaku is warming up on the sideline for anyone wondering.
55th min: The game has a more open feel to it now. A dangerous cross from the right ends up being drilled back towards goal by Marcos Alonso. The shot is blocked by Çelik, who took a blow clearing the initial cross. He looks okay to play on.
52nd min: It is Loftus-Cheek for Kovacic. Lille are going more direct and it’s working well for them.
49th min: Ruben Loftus-Cheek is getting ready to come on, presumably for Mateo Kovacic, who has been moving a little sheepishly. Lille are getting more time on the ball in this half.
48th min: Ziyech has already been more involved than he was in the first half, and Azpilicueta teases another cross in, which is gathered by Jardim.
46th min: The teams are out, and we’re back underway. It’s a high tempo start. Chelsea attack right from the off, with a Ziyech shot blocked. Kovacic has to defend on the edge of his own area to stop a Lille breakaway, and then the hosts go up the other end, but Kovacic ends up running it out of play.
Chelsea’s veteran center back has been everywhere tonight:
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 22, 2022
Halftime: Chelsea 1, Lille 0
HALFTIME: There’s no injury time to be played, as the referee blows his whistle in West London. Chelsea started well, but Lille came back into the game in the second half. Thomas Tuchel will be frustrated that Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, who started the game brightly, haven’t been able to affect the game in the final third.
42nd min: Lille have got in behind Marcos Alonso a few times in this half, this time Thiago Silva has to be alert to cut out Bamba’s cross, but it’s a potential route to a goal for the French team.
39th min: The hype was around Jonathan David, but it’s Jonathan Bamba who has looked bright here today. He’s held onto the ball well and looks comfortable in tight spaces. The Lille number seven has looked bright.
37th min: Bamba does well to get a cross in, and it ends with a shot from the edge of the area, forcing Mendy into his first save of the game. Kante drives up the pitch again, and in the end Havertz’s square ball to find a teammate in space is cut out. Chelsea have looked dangerous when they’ve had a chance to counter.
34th min: Lille are managing to get the ball up to the final third, but struggling to get it into the area. Thomas Tuchel is animated on the edge of his area, he shouts so much that his chewing gum falls out of his mouth.
30th min: Kante wins the ball back and forces a turnover, not for the first time in this game. At the other end, Renato Sanches can’t quite get his final ball right, but everything Lille are doing seems to involve him.
KING KAI 💥
Havertz opens the scoring on his 50th Chelsea start 👏 pic.twitter.com/TGL2UuC9EO
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 22, 2022
28th min: Lille are struggling to get Jonathan David on the ball in dangerous areas, while Chelsea’s wingbacks are making a real difference. Chelsea’s threat is coming through the wide areas and Lille are being left two against one.
23rd min: The game has calmed down a little now. Renato Sanches is getting involved in the game a little more.
17th min: Alonso tries to volley a dropping ball from the edge of the area, but it’s a tame effort that doesn’t trouble the ‘keeper.
15th min: Lille have settled into the game a bit more now. They’re being more aggressive in their pressing, but the changes that Chelsea made for the game are working well.
13th min: A little ropier from Chelsea. Thiago Silva has to cut out a ball that would have found David one-on-one with Mendy, Rudiger slices a clearance over his own bar, and Chelsea really struggle to deal with the resulting corner. Lille have arrived.
11th min: It’s been all Chelsea so far. Thomas Tuchel has tweaked the formation to build up with a back three and a midfield two, and it’s working like a charm. They’re slicing through their visitors like a hot knife through butter.
8th min: GOAL!
It’s Havertz from the corner! Chelsea work it up the pitch well and a Havertz left-footed shot is tipped wide for a corner. He’s unmarked from the set piece and attacks the ball on the edge of the six-yard area, completely unopposed, heading it down into the ground, and into the back of the net.
4th min: Chance! Chelsea work it down the right and Azpilicueta puts in a teasing cross, which Havertz stretches for and manages to get a toe on. Agonizingly, he can only put it over the bar from a few yards out.
3rd min: Christian Pulisic has been involved early on. He’s playing off the left here.
2nd min: A good start to the game, with Chelsea playing through Lille and getting the ball into the area, but with no result. Chelsea with most of the possession early one.
2:59 p.m.: The players are out. The anthem is blaring. The stage is set.
2:50 pm.: Ten minutes to go and the atmosphere in the stadium is good. It’s the first time Chelsea have played at home since winning the Club World Cup, and Lille will be hoping to ruin the celebrations.
2:38 p.m.: All smiles from Romelu Lukaku during the warm up as he jokes with his teammates. It’s hard not to think that one way or another, he’ll be a big part of the story tonight
2:28 p.m.: Two names to look out for from among the Lille lineup are centre back Sven Botman, and center forward Jonathan David. The pair are expected to garner significant interest in the summer, and big performances at Stamford Bridge will only fan those transfer flames.
2:17 p.m.: The lineups are out, and the biggest shock for Chelsea is Romelu Lukaku starting the game on the bench. Thomas Tuchel said before the game that he was focused on winning this game, and he didn’t have an eye on the Carabao Cup final this weekend, but his Belgian striker isn’t starting today. It remains to be seen how Chelsea will set up, with Christian Pulisic potentially leading the line.
1:45 p.m.: If this match turns into a weird one, we won’t be surprised in the least:
Tim Weah, who wears No. 22 for Lille, turns 22 today, on 2/22/22.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 22, 2022
Chelsea vs. Lille lineups
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 22, 2022
— LOSC (@losclive) February 22, 2022