Lukaku performance shows why we signed him, says Tuchel after Zenit win

By Sports Desk September 14, 2021

Romelu Lukaku's winner showed why Chelsea signed him, according to Thomas Tuchel after his side defeated Zenit 1-0 in their Champions League opener.

Lukaku's first European goal for the Blues proved the difference as they made it 12 group-stage games without defeat on Tuesday.

The Belgium forward 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 splashed a club-record fee on the former Manchester United striker but he insisted that performances like this outing justify the transfer.

"It was an excellent header [from Lukaku for the goal], a well-timed cross by [Cesar] Azpilicueta," Tuchel told BT Sport post-match.

"He was brave enough to step up and we had bodies in the box. That's why he [Lukaku] is here. He likes to score and he's decisive for us."

In the history of the competition, only on two out of 28 occasions have the reigning champions lost the opener and no title defender has ever been beaten at home in their first group-stage tie.

Only Manchester City (11) have won more Champions League matches than Chelsea (10) since the start of last season and Tuchel was happy with his side's start to Group H.

"We had to be at our top level," the head coach continued. "I am happy because we had to work a lot. It was not easy. It's tough to perform consistently at that level.

"We expected a tough game because it's the highest competition in Europe and it's the Russian champions. It took us a while to make them tired but I liked what I saw.

"Winning is good for our belief. We are not finished but we are in a good place to improve.

"The first step is done. But there are five more matches to go [in the group stage]."

Related items

  • Chiellini bemoans impatience amid Juve's slow start to Serie A season Chiellini bemoans impatience amid Juve's slow start to Serie A season

    Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini scoffed at the lack of patience afforded to the Bianconeri following their slow start to the Serie A season under new head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

    After opening their 2021-22 Serie A campaign without a win in four matches, Juve finally opened their account by edging Spezia 3-2 midweek, moving the Italian giants out of the relegation zone.

    Juve have just five points from five games to start the season under Allegri, who returned to Turin to replace Andrea Pirlo after being dethroned by rivals Inter last term.

    In a period of change following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit, veteran Juve defender Chiellini bemoaned the impatience.

    "We must be able to keep the ship steady in a stormy sea," Italy international Chiellini told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Sunday's match against Sampdoria.

    "We'll see if we'll come out of it a little dented or with full sails, but we will arrive at the port.

    "As with everything, it takes time to find a balance. When there are big shocks, environmental like an earthquake or not, it takes a little time to settle and to restart.

    "Unfortunately, in the world of today, there's no patience."

    Juve have gained a point from their two home games this term and last went three home fixtures without a victory at the start of the 2015-16 season, also under Allegri.

    Chiellini and Juventus, who have allowed eight goals in five league games this campaign, have conceded a goal in each of their last 19 Serie A contests. Only in 1955 have they had a longer run without a clean sheet in the league (21).

    The visit of Sampdoria will be Allegri's 400th game in charge in Serie A – the Juve boss has claimed 243 wins in the competition, at least 59 more than any other coach since his debut in Italy's top flight in 2008-09.

  • Steelers star Watt says 'door open' to face Bengals after groin injury Steelers star Watt says 'door open' to face Bengals after groin injury

    Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said the door is open for him to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 of the NFL season.

    Watt is listed as questionable for Sunday's clash after injuring his groin in last week's 26-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

    But the three-time Pro Bowler is hopeful of suiting up at home to the Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

    "Doesn't matter how many reps I get throughout the week," Steelers star Watt said on Friday. "I was able to still run around here and do a lot of things that I need to do to keep the door open for Sunday.

    "I'm excited to get the rest of today and tomorrow to continue to improve my body and see where I'm at on Sunday.

    "... This isn't going around and playing Pee Wee football. This is playing against guys doing this for a living, so trying to be smart.

    "At the same time, knowing your body more than anything. I felt like I did a good amount this week to leave the door open for Sunday."

    Cincinnati ended a 10-game losing streak to Pittsburgh when the Bengals (1-1) beat the Steelers (1-1) 27-17 in Week 15 of last season.

    In the all-time series, the Steelers have 65 wins in their 101 games against the Bengals, which is the most wins by any team against Cincinnati.

    The Steelers, meanwhile, were held to 39 yards rushing in their loss to the Raiders, bringing the team's season rushing total to a league-worst 114 rushing yards.

    Since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, Pittsburgh have been held to under 40 yards rushing in 20 different games with only the Arizona Cardinals having more such games in that span (22).

  • Dak Prescott looking forward to 'special' Cowboys homecoming after injury Dak Prescott looking forward to 'special' Cowboys homecoming after injury
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.