Giroud’s late goal sends Chelsea through to knockout stage


Chelsea qualified for the Champions League knockout stages with two games to spare after a dramatic late win over Rennes in France.

Olivier Giroud’s stoppage-time winner, combined with Sevilla’s late win in Krasnador, secured passage for both sides and means next week’s match in Spain could go a long way to deciding the Group E winners.

Frank Lampard made four changes from the side which won at Newcastle, but the Blues were quickly into their stride and should have been ahead inside five minutes when Timo Werner somehow skied Callum Hudson-Odoi’s centre over the bar from four yards.

Hudson-Odoi, making his first start since the Champions League win in Krasnador, soon spared Werner’s blushes, sliding a confident finish past Rennes keeper Alfred Gomis after being played through by Mason Mount’s weighted pass over the home defence.

Only a brilliant Gomis save prevented Mount from doubling the lead as Chelsea dominated the opening half-hour, yet Rennes responded with pressure of their own before the break albeit without seriously testing their former team-mate Edouard Mendy.

Chelsea had looked unsettled, perhaps guilty of letting their focus slip after a dominant start, but looked to have rediscovered their sharpness after the break, with Werner heading Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross into the net, although the German was marginally offside.

Rennes had looked largely ineffectual in attack despite working decent positions, but Mendy had to pull off a smart save to prevent Gerzino Nyamsi heading an equaliser from a corner.

But Mendy could do nothing about Serhou Guirassy’s equaliser, getting goalside of Kurt Zouma at a corner to power a header into the net which looked to have delayed Chelsea’s qualification.

But up popped substitute Giroud in the 91st minute, leaping high to meet a looping ball and get enough power to beat Gomis and extend Chelsea’s winning run to six matches.

Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Thiago Silva, Chilwell, Kovacic (Havertz 76), Jorginho, Mount (Kante 68), Hudson-Odoi (Ziyech 75), Abraham (Giroud 69), Werner.