UCL: Giroud’s Last-gasp Header Sends Chelsea To Knockout Phase

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Chelsea sealed their progress to the Champions League knockout stage with two games to spare as Olivier Giroud’s late header secured victory at Rennes.

The French striker has played just 127 minutes for the Blues so far this season, but made the most of his time on the pitch here with an injury-time finish after Timo Werner’s effort had been blocked.

Just six minutes earlier, Rennes looked to have denied Chelsea when Serhou Guirassy headed home from a corner to cancel out Callum Hudson-Odoi’s opener.

Frank Lampard’s side dominated the first half and could easily have led by more than just Hudson-Odoi’s calm finish after he had been sent clear by a pinpoint pass from Mason Mount.

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They invited the home side on in the second half and had to rely on a defence that included the returning Thiago Silva and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who made a couple of good saves against his former club.

A late winner for Sevilla means both they and the Blues have 10 points in Group E, nine more than both Rennes and Krasnodar.

Rennes deserved the leveller when it came towards the end of a second-half display that was full of endeavour but so often short of ruthlessness in front of goal. It is clear to see why they had gone over five hours without a goal prior to Guirassy’s header.

But Chelsea recovered to take the points thanks to the ever-reliable Giroud, who was sent on by Lampard in the 69th minute and rewarded his boss in the 91st with his 30th goal for the club.

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‘A tough, hard-fought win’
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, talking to BT Sport: “I’m very happy to qualify with two games to spare. It was a really tough match, they’re a very good team. Their recent form doesn’t reflect how good they are, it was a tough, hard-fought win.

On balancing the team with Spurs at the weekend: “We have to prioritise the game in front of us but we’re aware of where we are in the league and that Sunday is a big game.

“It always will be because of the rivalry and they are a great team and now it’s just about preparing well. They’ll have a day off tomorrow and then come Thursday morning we’ll start thinking about Spurs properly.”

Chelsea have made the knockout stages in 16 of their 17 Champions League seasons (only failing in 2012/13).
Rennes have managed just one clean sheet in their last 14 games in European competition (2-0 v Lazio in December 2019 in the Europa League).

Chelsea have won three consecutive Champions League matches for the first time since December 2015.

Chelsea are unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions, their longest run without defeat since November 2018 (18).

Since his first European appearance for Chelsea in October 2018, Callum Hudson-Odoi has netted six goals in European competition, a haul bettered only by Olivier Giroud for the Blues in that time (12).

Since the start of last season, Mason Mount has registered eight assists for Chelsea in all competition, a joint-high among players still with the club (also 8 for Azpilicueta and Abraham).
Olivier Giroud is just the fourth player to score for both Chelsea and Arsenal in the Champions League (also Anelka, Fabregas and Gallas).

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Source: BBC.com

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