Romelu Lukaku winner showed why Chelsea signed him, according to Thomas Tuchel after his side defeated Zenit 1-0 in their first Champions League game.
Lukaku’s first European goal for the Blues made all the difference, with 12 unbeaten group stage games on Tuesday.
The Belgian striker now has four goals in three games against Russian opponents and only Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland and Bruno Fernandes have scored more than Lukaku’s 14 European goals since the start of 2019-20, when he signed for Inter.
Tuchel paid a record fee for the club on the former Manchester United striker, but insisted that shows like this outing justified the move.
“It was a great header [from Lukaku for the goal], a timely cross of [Cesar] Azpilicueta, “Tuchel told BT Sport after the game.
“He was brave enough to step forward and we had bodies in the box. That’s why him [Lukaku] it’s here. He likes to score and is decisive for us. “
14 – Only Robert Lewandowski (21), Erling Haaland (20) and Bruno Fernandes (17) have scored more goals than Romelu Lukaku (14) in major European competitions since the start of 2019-20. Climb. pic.twitter.com/8wEzRvLJEJ
– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2021
In the history of the competition, defending champions have lost their first game on only two out of 28 occasions and no title defender has ever been beaten at home in their first group stage match.
Only Manchester City (11) have won more Champions League games than Chelsea (10) since the start of last season and Tuchel was happy with his team’s start in Group H.
“We had to be at our highest level,” continued the head coach. “I’m happy because we had to work a lot. It wasn’t easy. It’s hard to consistently perform at that level.
“We expected a difficult match because it is the highest competition in Europe and they are the champions of Russia. It took a while to tire them out, but I liked what I saw.
“Winning is good for our belief. We are not finished but we are in a good position to improve.
“The first step is done. But there are still five games to go [in the group stage]. “