By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 2 v LOSC Lille 0
Kai Havertz was the star of the show as Chelsea beat Lille 2-0 in the 1st leg of the Champions League round of 16 at Stamford Bridge tonight.
The German scored the first but his all-round elegant performance and cutting edge where it mattered – in front of goal, more than justified head coach Thomas Tuchel’s decision to dump striker Romelu Lukaku to the bench and allow Havertz free rein up front.
He did not disappoint and his goal, on eight minutes coupled with a second-half strike by Christian Pulisic has put the Blues in the driving seat to progress into the next round.
It was however Havertz who missed a sitter after just five minutes when a brilliant right byline cross from Cesar Azpilicueta was met by the boot of the German on the centre of the six-yard line, but he managed to send the ball over the Lille crossbar.
A scintillating break by the Blues on seven minutes saw Havertz again, with the ball. One quick touch, followed by a low drive saw a fine save by Leo Jardim. The ball going away for a corner.
From the resultant kick from Hakim Ziyech, Havertz, unchallenged, bullet-headed the ball into the ground, and it zipped past the hapless Jardim to put the west Londoners 1-0.
Toni Rudiger almost produced an own-goal when he sliced a Renarto Sanches cross over Mendy, and luckily for him, over the crossbar too.
A cushioned volley by Marcos Alonso, on 19 minutes from a deep N’Golo Kante cross was not strong enough to thwart Jardim and the ball nestled safely in his arms.
The French aside had their first shot on goal, on 35 minutes – Benjamin Andre struck a firm left-footer. But Mendy had no trouble grabbing it.
There were no changes by either side at half-time. But Tuchel was forced to replace injured Mateo Kovacic after just four minutes – Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on.
Zeki Celik hurt himself, getting in the way of an Alonso pile-driver.
The full-back hobbled back on to resume his position.
Ziyech was forced off on 58 minutes with an injury – Saul replaced him.
Chelsea doubled their lead on 63 minutes when a brilliant deep run by Kante to the edge of the Lille penalty area, saw him slip the ball to his left where in-running Pulisic, having kept pace with Kante, took up the ball. He strode deep into the area, before cooly sliding the ball past out-rushing Jardim and into the far corner of his net.
On 80 minutes, Tuchel opted to bring on Timo Werner and Malang Sarr, off came Pulisic and Alonso.
It had a negligible impact on the game, and the Blues were comfortable and secure at the back and happy to take the two-goal lead to France for the return leg in March.
Teams: Chelsea, Mendy, Rudiger, Alonso, Christensen, Silva, Kante, Kovacic, Pulisic, Ziyech, Azpilicueta, Havertz
Subs: Kepa, Bettinelli, Jorginho, Lukaku, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Saul, Mount, Kenedy, Sarr, Vale
Lille, Jardim, Celik, Djalo, Botman, Fonte, Bamba, Cheka, David, Sanchez, Andre, Onana
Subs, Grbic, Raux, Gudmundsson, Ban Arafat, Yilmaz, Lihadji, Gomes, Weah, Zhegrova, Bradaric
Referee: Jesus Gil Manzano (ESP)