Chelsea maintained their unbeaten start in this season’s Champions League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Rennes at Stamford Bridge this evening.
Frank Lampard’s men were not at their explosive best though leveling up wasn’t needed as their French visitors would shoot themselves in the foot. Timo Werner would twice profit from 12 yards in the opening 45 minutes before Tammy Abraham ensured all three points just after the break.
Rennes, though, were unfortunate to finish the game with 10 men but even with a full selection they seldom troubled Chelsea’s backline. Having now collected seven points from their opening three matches a win in the reserve fixture next time out should seal the Blues path into the knockout phase.
As the dust settles, here are five things we learned from this encounter.
1. Penalty magnet
It was a slow beginning to life at Stamford Bridge for serial German marksman Timo Werner but it’s fair to say he’s finally exploded and subsequently living up to the billing. Heading into this evening’s game the Chelsea newcomer had registered five goals across five games in all competitions despite not regularly playing through the middle with Blues boss Lampard often preferring to deploy him from the left flank.
And that was where he started against Rennes, but with a license to roam, and it was drifting inside over the opposite flank where he’d greatly profited in the ninth minute when the ex-Leipzig man earned the hosts a penalty. This also happened to be the fourth occasion he would give the west London club a spot-kick and despite regular taker Jorginho being on the pitch Werner took on the responsibility himself to give the Premier League side an early lead.
2. Unlucky Dalbert
That effort was Werner’s sixth of the campaign in all competitions and he wouldn’t have to wait long before adding to his tally. But the circumstances leading to it was a tad controversial. Rennes left-back Dalbert, who brought the German forward down for Chelsea’s initial penalty, was ultimately adjudged to have handled inside the penalty area moments before half-time. Felix Zwayer, today’s on-field referee, initially thought otherwise before consultation with the video assistant referee.
Once again VAR — to be precise the official’s interpretation — will be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. On several looks it was a harsh overrule, but truthfully it comes down to interpreting the letter of the law, Werner wasn’t complaining as he converted his second goal of the game which now sees him being directly involved in 13 goals in his last 14 appearances in the Champions League (10 goals and three assists). Incidentally not since Lothar Matthaus for Bayern Munich in 1987 has a German scored two penalties in a single European Cup game. As for Dalbert, the Brazilian received a second yellow, meaning an early shower. To describe him as being unlucky would be an understatement.
3. Keeping it tight
A lot has been written about Chelsea’s defence this season and rightfully so after they shipped in ten goals across their opening seven matches including letting in three against West Brom and Southampton respectively. However, those days are starting to be a thing of the past, with today’s result ensuring a fifth game without conceding in all competitions.
The presence of former Rennes goalkeeper Édouard Mendy has been a pivotal factor, scouted by predecessor Petr Cech who made the same move back in 2004, the former Czech international couldn’t be more proud. And speaking of the Premier League’s cleansheet record holder not since the 2019/10 campaign Carlo Ancelotti have the Blues started a Champions League tournament with three consecutive shutouts.
4. Homegrown stars
The last decade has seen Chelsea establish themselves as one of Europe’s premier breeding grounds when it comes to developing footballers. The problem has been the pathway into their first team was often blocked and those exciting talents would need to move on if they weren’t perpetually sent out on loan. Circumstances, though, have since changed the arrival of Lampard — the club’s record goalscorer — coupled with a transfer ban enforced by Fifa saw their current homegrown stars play key roles in this newlook Blues team.
This evening saw three — Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham — start with two combining for Chelsea’s third. James’ pass for Abraham was significant as it was the first time since March 2012 two Englishmen combined for a Champions League goal for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Back then against Napoli it was Lampard the creator and their most successful academy graduate John Terry slotting the ball home. Abraham, who is not always guaranteed a start, also became the first Chelsea player since Willian in 2015 to score in three consecutive Champions League starts.
Very few would have predicted Rennes winning this evening given their present form which consists of just one win across their previous five matches in all competitions. That being said, football is such an unpredictable sport especially when there’s no twelfth man, but any hopes of leaving England with a result went up in smoke inside the opening quarter-hour.
This setback was the latest to engulf a Ligue 1 outfit this week following Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain also losing to FC Porto (3-0) and RB Leipzig (2-1) respectively. It’s the first time three French clubs have lost during the same Champions League matchday since October 2011 when Lille, Lyon and Marseille again couldn’t pick up a single point between themselves.