KAI HAVERTS did in five what Romelu Lukaku couldn’t do in seven.
And the German is not even a striker.
Havertz scored the goal that, with his fifth touch of the ball, put Chelsea in charge of a difficult Champions League match.
A stark contrast to Lukaku’s failure last weekend at Crystal Palace, when he hit the ball just seven times in 90 minutes.
He became even more of a mere spectator as he sat and watched from the bench as Havertz energetically acted as a so-called “false nine” and continued his hitting streak.
He scored the goal that made Chelsea Club World Cup winners with an eight-minute header against the reluctant French champions.
Although this did not lead to the goal race that boss Thomas Tuchel had hoped for, there was enough platform for Christian Pulisic to get a decent lead in the first leg with second in the 63rd minute.
And that means they will travel to France for the second leg next month as firm favorites to make it into the last eight in their European title defense.
Although it wasn’t an old fashioned spectacle, and Tuchel’s team were at times the architect of their own nervous moments, they held on and with a clean sheet as an added bonus, they should reach the quarter-finals.
Before the game kicked off, the Blues took a moment to show off their newly acquired trophy, another trinket to add to the collection but nowhere near as high on the goal list as saving the Champions League.
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It was at this point last year that Tuchel came to Chelsea. His first European game as manager was a 1-0 away win over Atlético Madrid 364 days before yesterday’s match.
He has since left his mark on the club in many ways, but finding a striker of consistent quality is one area that still causes problems.
Hence the decision to send Lukaku to the bench as his £97m striker and English football struggle to find common ground.
Yesterday there were calls in the House of Commons to impose sanctions on Russian billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Red Rom is sweating over his London investments, while Blue Rom has his assets squeezed by Tuchel.
Just 24 hours before the start of the game, the boss vowed to “protect our player” in a meaningful address, as he claimed to have been on Lukaku’s side during the fall of form.
If not signing a record is a defense, then Tuchel is playing mind games with the man who cost Abramovich £9.7m this season.
He happily resisted the temptation to take Lukaku off the bench to secure an advantage with two Chelsea players. Instead, Timo Werner, another forward who failed to get back in shape in front of the net, ran out of the game late in the evening.
The boss will continue to ask questions about how his team failed to finish off the 11th-place team in the French league and a pale shadow of the one that won its title last season.
And as controlling as Chelsea have been, Lille have been probing and prodding from time to time, and had it not been for the ageless Thiago Silva’s flawless defensive play, this night could have been much more uncomfortable for them.
After such a heady start with an early goal by Havertz and the first volley of energetic football and excitement, Chelsea ran out of steam and the break fell on relief and the opportunity to regroup.
An expected shot on Lille’s goal early in the second half barely faded and the hosts were dealt another blow to their confidence and form when key players Mateo Kovacic and Hakim Ziyech were forced off the field with injuries within seven minutes.
The Blues are worried about the League Cup final against Liverpool on Sunday.
Havertz went ahead and in the 58th minute did strike on the run just as Ziyech was being taken away, but it looked like a disappointing night for the European champions.
That was until N’Golo Kante suddenly rushed forward across the middle of the field as fast as his little legs could carry.
From the center circle to the outskirts of Lille, the crowd behind the net in the Matthew Harding stand pulled him towards the net, but the collected Frenchman suppressed the urge to shoot, deftly shifting the ball to the left.
And from there, the American striker Pulisic arrived to strike into the net, after which Stamford Bridge celebrated with an equal mixture of celebration and relief.