A much-improved Chelsea secured a comfortable first-leg lead over Lille in the UEFA Champions League last 16 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
It was all about game management for Thomas Tuchel’s team, who never looked like a giveaway and came out on top with a 2-0 win over strikes by Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic.
Starting in the middle after the dismissal of the faltering Romelu Lukaku, Havertz was the main character in the first trade – he lost two good chances before taking the third in ten minutes. First, Cesar Azpilicueta was found with a low cross just four minutes later, but just four meters away the Germans plotted to lift the pitch over the post.
Next, there was the opportunity to make a play on the fence, as he folded the floor to the left before cutting inside and bent the shot towards a far corner. Lille goalkeeper, Leo Jardim, produced an excellent save by bending the ball near the post, but in a corner that led to Havertz rising unmarked to lead Chelsea.
The athletes seemed satisfied with Lille scoring a goal afterward, taking them out and playing between the slightly different Ligue 1 sides on the counter. Les Dogues’ greatest effort came from the Chelsea player when Antonio Rudiger indirectly diverted the cross over his crossbar.
Lille did good things passing in the first half, with former Bayern Munich and Swansea player Renato Sanches, but they had no result. The Portuguese midfielder made an excellent break in the middle of the pitch, but his long-distance strike went well.
There was a sad moment in the 31st minute with applause remembering Jamal Edwards, creator of the YouTube channel SBTV and a lifelong Chelsea fan who passed away earlier this week.
Chelsea started the second half on purpose, with a few runs from Pulisic almost outscoring the second, but Hakim Ziyech saw his shot saved. Marcos Alonso then saw a short goal blocked in front of the goalkeeper.
Havertz had a chance to double his account when he hit the ball on the line just before the hour but was forced to open slightly and fired his shot over the corner.
The Blues’ reign of the season finally spoke when Pulisic ended the attack that had N’Golo Kante in your heart. The Frenchman was carrying a ball from his side before slipping Pulisic to the left and the number ten made one in the penalty area.
Despite seeing a lot of football, Lille has never really wrapped up and Chelsea will take the lead in the second leg at the beginning of March.