On a big European night in the rain, under the lights at Stamford Bridge Chelsea confirmed their qualification through to the knockout stages of the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Lille. With results elsewhere meaning that Chelsea finished 2nd in the group, the mood is somewhat dampened for Chelsea fans. Nevertheless, Frank Lampard’s men are through to the knockout stages after coming through a tricky group.
With the starting eleven, Lampard elected to rest Reece James in favour of experience with Cesar Azpilicueta at right back, whilst Antonio Rudiger made his first start following his long layoff due to injury. Fikayo Tomori was missing from the matchday squad as Chelsea fielded a strong team on a big night.
On a big night at the Bridge, Chelsea started well against the weakest team in Group H pressuring Lille early on. Christian Pulisic was first to go close who fired just past the post on his weaker foot after Tammy Abraham, quite brilliantly, brought down a long ball from Kurt Zouma. Another chance came quickly after, this time it was Emerson who fired at the keeper from the edge of the box. Chelsea kept knocking on the door as N’golo Kante volleyed just wide of the post.
However, the Blues fans didn’t have to wait long as the breakthrough came in the 18th minute from none other than Abraham. After Kante’s clever chest pass allowed Pulisic to run at the Lille defence, the American played in Willian who crossed for Abraham’s 13th goal of the season to ease the nerves around the ground. 10 minutes before half time, Chelsea doubled their lead when Emerson’s inviting corner was met by Azpilicueta – who rose unopposed to power home the second goal of the night.
Chelsea took their eye off the ball as they let Lille come further and further forward. They were punished when former blue Loic Remy netted in the 78th minute, with an unstoppable finish which hit the underside of the crossbar to make the last 15 minutes of the game a particular nervy one. Michy Batshuayi went close on the turn after good work on the right as Chelsea failed to kill the game. Remy went close late on as Rudiger gave the ball away with a heavy touch but he hit it straight at Kepa with a fairly weak shot.
Despite five minutes of added time, Chelsea came through the game with the 2-1 win to secure qualification. With Valencia winning by a goal to nil in Amsterdam, it means that the Blues finish second in the group despite having better goal difference than Valencia. However, due to teams being separated by head to head record first. That means big tests are to come. With the chance we could draw the likes of PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and RB Leipzig in the round of 16. The draw for that is the Monday 16th December, 11am UK time, we will wait until then. But for now, we have qualified through a tough group and the journey goes on.