Chelsea rediscovered their mojo on a squally, rain-lashed night at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday as they produced an excellent display of creativity, dominance, tight passing and skill to defeat Lille. Yet at the last knockings of this absorbing Champions League encounter, they found themselves again clinging on, begging for the final whistle, against the minnows
Chelsea rediscovered their mojo on a squally, rain-lashed night at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday as they produced an excellent display of creativity, dominance, tight passing and skill to defeat Lille.
Yet at the last knockings of this absorbing Champions League encounter, they found themselves again clinging on, begging for the final whistle, against the minnows of Group H, unable to either keep a clean sheet or inflict the killer blow.
That was despite the welcome return of Tony Rudiger to central defence, showing just what the Blues have been missing during the enforced use of Andreas Christensen in his place.
Chelsea 2 Lille 1 means that the Blues progress in second spot to the knockout phase of the Champions League in the new year, with Frank Lampard becoming the first English manager to reach this stage of the competition since his uncle, Harry Redknapp, in 2010-11 (with Spurs).
“It did get twitchy,” Lamps admitted, after pacing the technical area in a woolly hat and thick anorak, and summoning a dry towel from the dressing room to wrap round his perch in the dugout after the incessant rain before kick-off soaked seats supposedly protected from the elements by the stand roof.
“We need to take our chances better. At 2-0 I thought it was not quite done, and when Lille scored it made it a more nervy finish to the game than it needed to be,” he said.
“It should have been a calmer finish to the game, and that is the biggest thing we need to improve.”
Several Blues players had stand-out performances against Lille, among them Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic and Willian who – between them at the front – worked well together, and in harmony with the midfield.
Abraham side-footed Chelsea’s opener after 19 minutes, when Willian ran to the byeline and cut back a cute ball into the box. Chance after chance followed, and by half-time it was 2-0 and comfortable following Emerson’s 35th minute corner and captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s glancing header.
But although Chelsea looked to be in complete control, with the noisy Lille fans among the 40,016 crowd largely silenced by the Blues’ dominance, they again frittered away their advantage.
On 78 minutes, sub Jonathan Bamba cut back a ball in much the same way Willian had done in the first half, and Loic Remy – the former Chelsea striker – struck home.
Cue an attack of anxiety as Chelsea wasted as much time as possible before the final whistle, a cry to relief from the fans, and the customary One Step Beyond song to jiggle up and down to in the stands.
While Chelsea await the draw for the next round, Lampard is both pleased about the outcome of the Tuesday night match, but still bothered about the defensive lapses which can make watching the Blues a medically inadvisable experience.