Chelsea 1-0 Zenit St Petersburg: Five things we learned as European champions stroll to opening win

Chelsea began the defence of their Champions League title with a win against Zenit St Petersburg.

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea applauds fans after the UEFA Champions League group H match (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Chelsea began their Champions League title defence with a hard fought 1-0 win over Russian side Zenit St Petersburg at Stamford Bridge.

Romelu Lukaku made the difference, scoring the only goal of the game with a powerful header in the second half.

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Only Robert Lewandowski (21),  Erling Haaland (20) and Bruno Fernandes (17) have scored more goals in Europe than the Chelsea striker since the start of last season. Lukaku now has 14.

Coming into this game, Chelsea had never met Zenit in a European competition and even though the visitors gave a good account, Chelsea proved too strong in the end.

Here are some of the things we observed from a very entertaining evening at Stamford Bridge.

Ben Chilwell up and running

Aleksandr Erokhin of Zenit St. Petersburg is challenged by Ben Chilwell (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Ben Chilwell got some minutes after being introduced in the second half for Marcos Alonso, which should boost his confidence.

Manager Thomas Tuchel had earlier said that the England left-back was suffering from personal disappointment of not playing a major role for the Three Lions as they reached the final of Euro 2020.

Having been introduced in the second half, Chilwell will now hope to kick start his season and wrestle back his spot from Alonso.

Marcos Alonso continues fine start to the season

Marcos Alonso of Chelsea crosses the ball during the UEFA Champions League group (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Marcos Alonso produced another energy-driven performance after being picked to start ahead of Ben Chilwell.

The Spain left back is benefiting from a strong pre-season and never stopped running down the left side of the pitch whenever Chelsea poured forward.

Having started all games this season his confidence is high and the competition for the left back position will be one that should delight manager Thomas Tuchel.

Zenit St Petersburg give good account of themselves

Sardar Azmoun of Zenit St. Petersburg and Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea battle for possession (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Zenit frustrated Chelsea, restricting the European champions to half chances and creating problems for the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Christensen on the break.

In a group that also has Malmo and Juventus, they gave a good account of themselves and have a good chance of progressing or at least getting the Europa League spot.

They will feel slightly disappointed to be going home empty handed but they should be proud of their effort.

Antonio Rudiger in the form of his life

Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea in celebrates after the Premier League (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Antonio Rudiger’s contract is up in 12 months but based on this performance there aren’t many out there that can come in and do a better job at the moment.

His form since Thomas Tuchel took over has been remarkable and he showed again with a dominant display why the likes of PSG and Bayern Munich are keeping a close eye on his contract situation in London.

One move in the second half summed up his current form The German picked the ball up from his own half and drove past everyone before unleashing a powerful shot that missed the goal narrowly. Didn’t put a foot wrong all night.

Romelu Lukaku makes the difference again

Romelu Lukaku showed again why Chelsea broke the bank to secure his signature.

Denied of services for most of the game, the striker put away the very first chance that came his way, rising above the Zenit backline to score at a time when the visitors were growing in the game.

The Belgium international has now scored four goals from his first six shots on target for Chelsea since signing from Inter Milan in the summer. He has been relentless.