With the dearth of productivity in Chelsea’s attack drawing a lot of attention, manager Thomas Tuchel benched star forward Romelu Lukaku, and his replacements stepped up in the first of a Champions League Round of 16 series against Lille. The Blues won 2-0 thanks to goals from Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic in each half.
Chelsea raced out of the gates in authoritative form, passing through Lille’s press with ease, and Havertz headed home from a corner kick after only eight minutes. Lille, on the other hand, became into the game, frequently overloading Chelsea’s wingbacks in wide spaces.
As their confidence built, the visitors pushed their hosts higher up the pitch and put more bodies forward. Renato Sanches and Jonathan Bamba shone at moments, constantly swapping flanks, but they couldn’t find the last ball throughout the game, and Canadian international Jonathan David was quiet.
Chelsea had a tough start to the second half, as Mateo Kovacic and then Hakim Ziyech both went down with injuries.
Chelsea needed another goal to calm their nerves, and Pulisic’s goal in the 63rd minute felt like it put the game to bed, as he calmly finished a quick counter.
Lille didn’t give up, but they never looked like they were going to threaten Edouard Mendy’s goal, with Chelsea centre back Thiago Silva on hand to cover the few times the visitors got into difficult situations.
While the series isn’t quite over at 2-0, LOSC Lille will have their work cut out for them when the second leg is held in their city.
Tuchel will have gained valuable confidence from the match ahead of the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on Sunday.