Thursday 23 January 2020

Blues break Bridge run and join Valencia in the last 16

Chelsea 2 -1 Lille

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring their first goal . Photo: Reuters
Chelsea's Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring their first goal . Photo: Reuters

Nick Purewal

Chelsea clinched their place in the knock-out stage of the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Lille, secured by first-half goals from Tammy Abraham and captain Cesar Azpilicueta.

Chelsea, who needed a win to make sure of qualification for the last 16, had gone five Champions League games at Stamford Bridge without a victory, their longest such run at home in the competition.

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They were in charge for almost the entire game against Lille who were already condemned to the bottom spot of Group H and fielded an under-strength side.

After dominating the opening proceedings under a downpour, Chelsea took the lead in the 19th minute when US striker Christian Pulisic darted forward to feed Willian and the Brazilian's cut-back cross was turned in by Abraham.

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante in action. Photo: PA
Chelsea's N'Golo Kante in action. Photo: PA

The Londoners doubled their lead in the 35th minute when Azpilicueta shook off his marker to score with a close-range header from a corner by Emerson.

Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy pulled a goal back for Lille in the 78th minute when his shot went in off the crossbar, setting up a nervous finish for the hosts. Remy wasted a chance to equalise when he shot straight at Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in injury time.

The result meant all four English teams in this season's Champions League - Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Chelsea - have reached the last 16 of the competition.

There was further good news for Chelsea as they welcomed back central defender Antonio Rudiger who had previously played only 45 minutes this season due to injuries.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: PA
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. Photo: PA

Elsewhere, Rodrigo scored the game's only goal as Valencia upset hosts Ajax 1-0 to finish top of Group H and eliminate the Dutch club from this season's competition.

The 24th-minute strike saw Valencia finish ahead of Frank Lampard's men by virtue of the head-to-head result between the two, as both clubs ended on 11 points to Ajax's 10.

In Group F, Inter Milan crashed out of the Champions League after 17-year-old Ansu Fati became the youngest scorer in the competition's history by firing in a late winner to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory at San Siro.

Carles Perez put the already qualified Spaniards in front on his Champions League debut but Romelu Lukaku's strike levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time.

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez had the ball in the net twice after the break, only for both goals to be correctly disallowed for offside, before Fati smashed in a sublime finish inside the final five minutes.

The Italian side needed to, at least, match Borussia Dortmund's result against Slavia Prague to maintain second place, but the Germans won 2-1 to move into the runner-up spot and consign Inter to a Europa League place.

Irish Independent

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