Back on home soil, Olivier Giroud was the man of the moment for Chelsea in France as he planted a vintage header into the back of the net to grab a stoppage-time winner against Rennes and seal our progress into the Champions League last-16.
Introduced for the final 20 minutes with the score still 1-0 courtesy of Callum Hudson-Odoi’s excellent opener, the striker battled up front amidst a physical contest, though could only watch the concession of a late leveller with moments to spare.
Yet watching was the last thing on his mind when Timo Werner’s saved strike looped into the air in time added on. Giroud was on the move, making up impressive ground as the ball hung in brisk nightime sky before planting an unstoppable header beyond a covering defender on the goal-line.
It was his first-ever Champions League goal for the Blues and a first in the competition for four years so it was no wonder the 34-year-old was pleased with the evening’s work in the aftermath of the action.
‘We needed this win,’ he said following the final whistle. ‘We dominated the game for big parts of the first half but then they pushed a lot, even though we stayed in the game. It was difficult because they had a strong desire and lots of aggression.
‘It almost felt like a Premier League game. They were unlucky but we are very pleased with these three points against a team with strong character.’
Victory at Roazhon Park, coupled with a Sevilla win in Krasnodar, means the top two in Group E have now been decided. The fight for first place comes to a crescendo when we head to Spain next week and Giroud insists claiming victory in Group E is the ultimate aim, even if he and his team-mates can afford to pat themselves on the back for a job very well done thus far.
‘Obviously we have already qualified but we need to finish first,’ he stated, before discussing his winning goal in more detail.
‘I try to take every single opportunity I have to score. This one was not the easiest but I gave everything as usual and I got lucky. I tried to win the duel, head the ball on target and I’m happy it went in the back of the net - happy for me and obviously happy for the team.
‘Every single player is a competitor and wants to be on the pitch to play his part. I am also one of them, to be efficient and give my maximum for the team so when I’m on the pitch this is very important for me. When the gaffer gives me opportunities I try to do that, keep going and keep believing.’
There was also praise from the scorer of the second to the provider of the first. Mason Mount produced another midfield performance that combined industry with innovation and it was the 21-year-old’s glorious pass that teed up Hudson-Odoi for the opener.
‘He’s in a very good run,’ Giroud added on Mount. ‘He’s settled well now in this midfield three, he’s enjoying himself and improving every single day.
‘I’m happy for him because again he was decisive with his assist for Callum. We are all happy to have this guy in the team and in the dressing room.’