Romelu Lukaku’s goal was enough to give holders Chelsea a victory in their opening Champions League group match.
Lukaku struck midway through the second half – his fourth goal in as many matches since returning to Stamford Bridge.
Zenit St Petersburg made it a tough night for the Blues, but the win was deserved.
The champions will be contenders once more
This may not have been the tight, polished performance needed to win knockout ties, but it was a solid display from a side that will be difficult to beat in this year’s competition and will make scoring against them quite an achievement.
The key will be juggling the demands of a Premier League title tilt with the pressures of high-intensity fixtures in the new year after the group stages. But with a bench full of quality to lean on, it would be a major surprise not to see them involved in the semi-final stages at least.
Marcos Alonso won’t be easy to dislodge
It has been really tough on Ben Chilwell to miss out since being part of last year’s Champions League final. But after being sidelined by Gareth Southgate during the Euros, his confidence has taken a dent. Alonso has started the campaign in blistering form and once again looked full of spark. His energy levels make up for the flaws. Always hungry for the ball and capable of making things happen. Almost scored late on, as is the norm.
Lukaku is top drawer
Lukaku has learned so much by broadening his football horizons. He knows where the chances will come and seems always ready to seize the moment. He will make the difference in many a tight game in the weeks and months ahead and does seem the piece of the jigsaw that was missing for Thomas Tuchel.
There’s always room for N’Golo Kante
The arrival of the excellent Saul Niguez in the latest transfer window has added to the embarrassment of riches at Tuchel’s disposal and there will be plenty of times when he will be needed and might even make a case for constant inclusion. But there is still nobody better than the one-man engine room that is Kante. He is the beating heart in midfield who can up the tempo when he plays and you can’t help but notice his absence during this current spell on the sidelines through injury.
The Matthew Harding Stand was in great voice
“Champions of Europe, we know what we are” got regular airings, as did ‘We’ve won it all”. But there were also a few songs in honour of past heroes John Terry and Frank Lampard as well as heart-felt eulogies to the late Ray Wilkins, who would have been 65 this week. The fans whipped up a decent wall of sound to mark the return of European action.