Giroud strikes late against Rennes to seal Chelsea’s spot knockout stages | Football

Olivier Giroud had the final word on home soil as he marched onto the pitch as a late substitute and provided the winning header in one of the final attacks of the game, earning Chelsea a 2-1 away win against Rennes. After Sevilla’s 2-1 win over Krasnodar, Chelsea have now qualified from Group E and into the Champions League knockout phase.

The two teams arrived at Roazhon Park moving in completely different directions. While Chelsea flew in on a five-match winning streak including their 3-0 win over a 10-man Rennes at Stamford Bridge, Rennes were desperately searching for their early season form and had lost in five of their last six games.

From the first minute, all of this was evident on the pitch as the entire Chelsea team flitted into the game full of vitality and within minutes they were suffocating the home team in the final third. Callum Hudson-Odoi had started only four times this season, two of them in the Carabao Cup, and he immediately made it clear that he wanted more.

It was his vision that provided one of the first clear opportunities as he glided through the Rennes lines, finding Timo Werner with a strong cross after a quick one-touch combination with Cesar Azpilicueta. Standing six yards from the goal, Werner blasted the ball far over the bar.

While Werner struggled badly after his miss before eventually fading out of the first half, Hudson-Odoi’s energy on the right flank was contagious. He dribbled fluently, he initiated passing combinations and he incessantly tried to make something happen. His industry was rewarded after half an hour as Mason Mount wrestled with James Léa Siliki deep in Chelsea’s half, winning the ball before finding Hudson-Odoi with a divine lofted pass. Hudson-Odoi sauntered up the pitch and coolly rolled his low finish into the net.

Still, this was a different game altogether from their home fixture, in which Rennes were damned by a penalty after 10 minutes and then left-back Dalbert was harshly sent off for a handball after giving away a second penalty. The French side was courageous in London even after falling down two goals. Here, after riding out another clear chance from Mount, they immediately bounced back and spent the second half on the front foot.



Olivier Giroud scores with his late header. Photograph: Dave Winter/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Although all eyes were on the return of 18-year-old Edouard Camavinga, it was another 18-year-old Rennes starlet, Belgium’s Jeremy Doku, who was a threat throughout and immediately caught the eye. He will particularly haunt Ben Chilwell after bullying the left-back into more than a couple of loose, panicked passes. Indecision in the final third from forwards Serhou Guirassy and Léa Siliki stopped Rennes from progressing further.

The magic of Chelsea’s first half hour gone, Rennes continued to impose themselves and soon held greater possession as they continually created danger from their impressive right flank of Doku and Hamari Traoré provided. While in possession, Chelsea opened the first half timidly and the forwards struggled to break down the French team’s compact defence.

As Rennes created ample chances it seemed that they would be thwarted by one of their own as Édouard Mendy, back in Rennes for the first time since moving to Chelsea, made a quick series of saves. After denying Guirassy from clear on goal, he pulled off a spectacular double save from the subsequent corner, keeping out Gerzino Nyamsi’s powerful header. Eventually the pressure told from the set piece Guirassy leapt high to meet a Benjamin Bourigeaud corner, launching his header into the net.

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All positivity could have been sucked out of the Chelsea team after failing to take their chances early on, but instead the substitutes took the final minutes in their hands and navigated a last minute escape. Hakim Ziyech dribbled brilliantly and set up Werner, whose strike was brilliantly saved by Rennes goalkeeper Alfred Gomis. As the ball flew into the sky and seemed to hang there for an eternity, Giroud jumped high to meet it and landed a trademark header to hand Chelsea a sixth win in a row.


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