Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was thrilled with their 1-0 victory despite admitting Zenit proved tough to crack, while Romelu Lukaku offered a prototypical striker’s response when asked about Antonio Rudiger’s solo run.
Chelsea toiled away for much of the contest versus Zenit until club-record signing Romelu Lukaku found the breakthrough. Picked out with a superb cross by Cesar Azpilicueta, the Belgian hitman did what he does best when glancing the ball inside the far post.
With a lead finally gained, the Blues then set about doing what they do best as a collective unit – keeping clean sheets.
Zenit pushed for an equaliser but their efforts were ultimately in vain as Chelsea began their Champions League campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Speaking to BT Sport after the match, Tuchel said: “It was not frustrating. It was tough against very strong opponents. We had to work really hard. I felt a huge intensity from us which we brought to the game.
“We struggled a bit to create chances and shots in the first half. In the second half it was a bit easier to find spaces and shoot. It was a deserved win. Hard earned. It took us a while to make them tired but I liked what I saw.
“You need the energy from the crowd and it was a fantastic atmosphere.
“It was an excellent header [from Lukaku for the goal], a well timed cross by Azpilicueta. He was brave enough to step up and we had bodies in the box. That’s why he [Lukaku] is here. He likes to score and he’s decisive for us.
“We expected a tough game because it’s the highest competition in Europe and it’s the Russian champions.
“We had to be at our top level. I am happy because we had to work a lot. It was not easy. It’s tough to perform consistently at that level.
“Winning is good for our belief. We are not finished but we are in a good place to improve. The first step is done. But there are five more matches to go [in the group stage].”
Lukaku offers predictable response to Rudiger run
Chelsea matchwinner Lukaku also spoke to the press, telling BT Sport: “I’m really happy with the win. Today was a better performance than the weekend. We have to keep growing.”
“Me and Cesar [Azpilicueta] agree on certain type of movements on the pitch. I had to get my timing right but it was a beautiful ball by him. We knew it would be tough game but we controlled it really well.”
Regarding Rudiger’s superb solo run which almost led to a goal, Lukaku joked: “I expected the ball at the end! It was good. It got the team and the crowd going.”
When asked what winning the Champions League with Chelsea would be like, the Belgian concluded: “One game at a time. Today is the first game. Now we have a difficult game at the weekend against Tottenham.”