LONDON — Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic fired Chelsea towards the Champions League quarter finals as the holders ran out 2-0 winners over French champions Lille.
In a game characterised by the resilience of the Chelsea backline, Thomas Tuchel’s side made the most of the opportunities they crafted at the other end. Havertz struck early on to fire the hosts to the lead they are so adept at defending before Pulisic finished off a second half counter to put the Blues in the driver’s seat of this round of 16 tie.
Selected ahead of Romelu Lukaku, it did not take long for Havertz to justify Thomas Tuchel’s decision. Having already found himself in two excellent shooting positions inside the first eight minutes, he rose highest to flick home Hakim Ziyech’s corner from the left, the ball bouncing into the turf and leaving Lille goalkeeper Leo Jardim stranded.
For a time the French side seemed to be rocked by the occasion but as the first half wore on they grew more assertive in their attacking, Renato Sanches pulling the strings in midfield whilst Jonathan Bamba gave Marcos Alonso sleepless nights. However, this did not quite translate into great pressure on Edouard Mendy’s goal, the most notable involvements for him being sweeping up when a pass was played in behind the Blues defense.
Meanwhile Chelsea continued to menace on the counter, picking up loose balls and driving up the field. When it is N’Golo Kante doing that it can be hard to stop him, as he proved when he slipped a pass in behind for Pulisic to clip home his fourth goal of the season for Chelsea.
Ultimately this was a performance extremely reminiscent of those that won Chelsea this tournament last year, not always the most aesthetically invigorating but one where the opposition were reduced to pot shots from afar and the transition proved to be the decisive weapon for the European champions. They will head to France next month being even stronger betting favourites to reach the quarter finals; repeat this performance in the weeks to come and they will surely find themselves at the business end of the Champions League.