Willian marked his 300th appearance for Chelsea with the winner as Frank Lampard’s side dug deep to beat Lille 2-1 and get off the mark in the Champions League.
The Brazilian had a mostly quiet game but produced a rare moment of quality in the second half, cracking a powerful volley beyond Mike Maignan in the 77th minute to secure three points.
Tammy Abraham had earlier marked his 22nd birthday with his first Champions League goal, but Victor Osimhen headed Lille level by half-time.
The first half had been vibrant, but the level of both sides dipped in the second 45 minutes. Chelsea were happy to take the spoils by any means, however, having lost their opening Group H match to Valencia at Stamford Bridge.
Lille, meanwhile, have suffered back-to-back defeats at the start of their campaign, leaving their hopes of reaching the knockout stages already looking bleak.
It’s a special night for Willian!
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 2, 2019
Lille were crushed 3-0 away to Ajax in their opener in Europe but had won all four of their home games in Ligue 1 this term, given them cause for optimism.
Chelsea looked up for this game though, and Mason Mount should have done better than to blaze off target from 20 yards early on.
They found their breakthrough in the 22nd minute when Fikayo Tomori flighted a curling ball through the static Lille defence, and Abraham placed his shot past Maignan, who had been abandoned by his defence.
Mount threatened again but Chelsea then hit a rocky patch that proved costly. The warning signs had been there, with Luiz Araujo driving in from the right flank and forcing Kepa Arrizabalaga to show strong hands to prevent a firm left-footed shot finding the far corner.
Lille’s leveller came in the 33rd minute, with Osimhen heading in powerfully from Jonathan Bamba’s corner.
Jorginho struck the right post with a wickedly curling shot just before the break, while Benjamin Andre was a whisker away for the hosts with a header early in the second half.
Chelsea substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi showed flashes of attacking purpose and energy before Mount had a low shot saved.
Then Willian drew back his right boot and thumped the powerful volley to get the match-winning goal. Fate perhaps dictated it, Chelsea landing their first Champions League scalp of the Lampard era thanks to one of his former midfield colleagues.
What does it mean? Euro vision clearer now for Lampard
Chelsea are up and running and the upcoming double-header with Ajax, though obviously tricky, should not hold quite the same fear now they have credit in their account. There were times in this game where they lost control and looked clueless as to how they might regain it, but in the end they perhaps just deserved to fend off Christophe Galtier’s side.
As for Lille, they should not be too dejected. Their team is young and they will benefit from every game at this level.
Kepa must have nightmares about Chelsea’s defence at times, and there were moments at Stade Pierre-Mauroy where he needed to be at his alert best. Kurt Zouma continues to look particularly shaky, and he was thankful for the goalkeeper charging off his line at one point to deny Osimhen.
Allez les Bleus!
It was a novelty for Lille to face an English club other than Manchester United. Their previous six matches in this competition when taking on Premier League opposition had all been against the Red Devils, with Lille winning just once. Against different opposition, they will rue failing to take at least a point, and it is hard to see them pushing for the top two now.
Key Opta facts
– Chelsea ended a run of four games without a win in the Champions League, picking up their first victory in the competition since November 2017 (4-0 v FK Qarabag).
– Lille are winless in their last nine home Champions League games, losing each of the last four in a row.
– In the 68 games that Frank Lampard has managed between Derby County and Chelsea in all competitions, his teams have only kept a clean sheet in 22 per cent of their matches.
– Across all competitions, only Raheem Sterling (nine) has scored more goals for an English club than Tammy Abraham (eight) in 2019-20.
– Since making his Champions League debut for Chelsea in September 2013, Willian has been directly involved in more goals than any other player for the club (15 – 10 goals and five assists).
Chelsea face Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, and Lille tackle Nimes on the same day. In the Champions League, both sides are back in action on October 23 when Chelsea travel to Ajax and Lille host Valencia.
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