Chelsea seized control of our Champions League destiny and booked a place in the last-16 with an impressive and emphatic victory at Stamford Bridge, taking us above opponents Juventus in Group H courtesy of our now-superior head-to-head record.
It was a 50th game to remember for boss Thomas Tuchel, who was serenaded by the home supporters as his side leapfrogged the men from Turin with a trio of Cobham-produced goalscorers plus Timo Werner, and a sixth clean sheet in our past seven European matches.
That shutout also gave us a club-record fifth consecutive Champions League home win without conceding and means simply matching Juve’s result on matchday six in a fortnight will secure us top spot.
Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Werner were the difference-makers on the night, though this was really a dominant display and a statement victory from the holders, tainted only slightly by injury withdrawals for N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell.
Chalobah lashed in the opener from close range after 25 minutes following a bright start before two goals in as many minutes after the interval settled the contest, James rifling in a rocket and Hudson-Odoi producing a more composed finish with his left. In stoppage time, with the last kick of the game, Werner finished off an incisive team move to round things off nicely.
It leaves us on 12 points from five group games, level with Juventus but above them given this result betters our 1-0 defeat in Italy.
Tuchel made two changes in attack from the side that started our 3-0 weekend win at Leicester City, with Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic coming in for Kai Havertz and Mason Mount. Pulisic led the line through the middle supported by Ziyech and Hudson-Odoi.
The rest of the team was unaltered as Chalobah made his first Champions League start at the back alongside Thiago Silva and Toni Rudiger, while Jorginho recovered from a knock to keep his place in midfield.
Pinning them back
Just like at Leicester on Saturday and in the reverse group fixture back in September, Chelsea’s start was full of energy and intent. The front three plus Kante pushed high into the Juventus half in an effort to disrupt the visitors from playing out and steal possession in advanced dangerous areas.
The first chance came inside two minutes when our marauding French midfielder jinked his way through the inside-right channel and to the byline, from where he dinked an inviting cross back into the six-yard box. Yet the composure of finishing from first Hudson-Odoi and then Chilwell was awry and the Bianconeri survived.
Chilwell then fired over and Chalobah headed narrowly wide from a James corner as the reigning European champions gave an indication of their quality right from the start.
It took 10 minutes before Juve managed a spell with the ball in the Chelsea half as former Blues striker Alvaro Morata and Federico Chiesa, so impressive for Italy at the summer’s European Championship, probed with runs in behind.
However, the clear-cut opportunities continued to come down the other end as Chilwell and Hudson-Odoi combined neatly down the left, with the wing-back forcing a low delivery towards Pulisic that Wojciech Szczesny smothered.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make the game’s first save midway through the opening half as James went for goal with a free-kick from the left. It was an effort struck with pace and precision but one the Pole proved equal to matching. The same could not be said for Chalobah’s opener moments later.
Out in front
A set-piece once again proved a decisive weapon for Tuchel’s men, this time Ziyech acting as supplier from the left. The ball floated all the way to Rudiger, who appeared unprepared for it so cushioned it back into the path of his centre-back partner and Chalobah did the rest with a strike lashed into the back of the net.
There was some dispute over a potential handball from Rudiger but, although the ball did strike the German’s hand, the VAR officials deemed it accidental as they rubber-stamped the goal and our 1-0 lead.
It was also Chalobah’s first Champions League goal on his first start in the competition, a repeat trick following his goalscoring Premier League debut at the start of the season.
Silva is golden
The visitors responded swiftly but the Old Lady were thwarted by the know-how of a veteran defender enjoying the twilight years of his career in south-west London. Manuel Locatelli produced a rare moment of deftness from midfield, finding Morata over the top with a perfect pass, and the Spaniard beat Mendy before lifting the ball over the onrushing keeper.
It looked destined to be the leveller but for Thiago Silva’s sudden appearance on the scene and the 37-year-old managed to hook the dropping ball off the line to keep our precious lead intact.
In truth, the Blues deserved more than a one-goal advantage. James went close to doubling it eight minutes before the break with a typical chest-and-volley attempt that Szczesny had to be alert to fingertip behind. From the resulting Ziyech corner, Rudiger headed downwards but narrowly wide.
Securing the points
We needed a two-goal winning margin to wrestle back control of the group and restarted with the purpose of a team that had been told as much at the break. Rudiger threatened from another corner but couldn’t keep his effort on target, while Thiago Silva warmed the gloves of Szezesny from James’ inswinging delivery.
The England international was proving a constant menace to Alex Sandro and was soon celebrating our crucial second of the night, his fifth of the campaign. It arrived in similar fashion to that which had brought such an impressive save from Szczesny in the first half, though on this occasion there was no answer to the 21-year-old’s tidy control and sledgehammer finish.
The goal made him our top scorer in all competitions this term and his showman celebration reflected the confidence of a young man in supreme form.
James’ fellow Academy graduate Hudson-Odoi was soon on the scoresheet too, slotting us into a 3-0 lead to make sure of the points and put an ever more impressive shine on the scoreline. Jorginho was influential in winning the ball back and spraying it right to James, whose quick pass into Ziyech was soon moved on to Ruben Loftus-Cheek, a first-half replacement for Kante.
The midfielder’s quick feet were mesmerising and his strength impossible to contend with as he bulldozed through a clutch of defenders before laying the ball off for Hudson-Odoi to bury into the bottom corner.
From that point onwards, Chelsea controlled proceedings without needing to over-exert ourselves for a fourth. Mendy made an impressive save up high, his only notable work of the night thwarting Weston McKennie, before Szczesny denied Ziyech with a strong hand down low to his right.
With five minutes of time added on, there was still time for substitute Werner to notch his first club goal since early October. James was eye-catchingly involved again, shrugging off the challenge of an opponent on halfway before pinging a perfect pass out to Ziyech on the left wing. The Moroccan’s delivery was similarly presentable for Werner, who tapped it in to complete a perfect night’s work.
The Blues continue to boast the best defensive record in the competition, the cornerstone for last season’s triumph providing the platform for continued success. A similar performance and result in Russia next month and the job will be done.
The Blues are back in action on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge as we welcome Manchester United to SW6 in the Premier League.
Chelsea (3-4-3) Mendy; Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante (Loftus-Cheek 37), Jorginho (c) (Saul 76), Chilwell (Azpilicueta 71); Ziyech, Pulisic (Werner 71), Hudson-Odoi (Mount 76)
Unused subs Arrizabalaga, Bettinelli, Alonso, Christensen, Sarr, Barkley, Lukaku
Scorers Chalobah 25; James 56; Hudson-Odoi 58; Werner 90+5
Juventus (4-4-2) Szczesny; Cuadrado (De Winter 80), Bonucci (c), De Ligt, Alex Sandro; McKennie, Bentancur (Dybala 59), Locatelli (Arthur 67), Rabiot; Morata (Kean 67), Chiesa (Kulusevski 80)
Unused subs Pinsoglio, Perin, Rugani
Booked Cuadrado 23
Referee Srdjan Jovanovic from Serbia