Olivier Giroud hands Chelsea late victory over Rennes AND Champions League knockout stage qualification

Chelsea are through to the knockout stages of the Champions League after out-of-favour striker Olivier Giroud struck a late winner against Rennes.

The Blues were heading to a frustrating draw after Serhou Guirassy’s leveller five minutes from time but it was the 34-year-old striker who won it for them.

Meanwhile, a win for Sevilla in the other Group E – thanks to a Munir El-Haddadi effort five minutes into added time against Krasnodar put Chelsea into the next phase of the competition.

Giroud saved the day for Chelsea

Manager Frank Lampard will have been especially pleased given his recent comments about the striker remaining in his plans despite the Frenchman wanting a move to further his Euro 2020 chances.

Giroud has only started one game in all competitions this season, in the League Cup, but proved his worth with an excellent added time header.

It was a fine riposte to Rennes, who battled back from early struggles to get level with Chelsea, who had led through Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Guirassy equalised for Rennes but it wasn’t enough

Guirassy equalised for Rennes but it wasn’t enough

After just four minutes, Chelsea could have taken the lead with Timo Werner somehow skying a shot from six-yards out.

The German international, seemingly continuing his profligacy against Newcastle, should have been able to pass home Hudson-Odoi’s delectable cross but his teammate lifted it high over the bar.

The linesman refused to lift his flag and immediately spare his blushes but it was the continuation of good wing-work from the Blues who looked to be focusing play towards the left, with Ben Chilwell unable to convert an earlier attempt.

Hudson-Odoi scored Chelsea’s first goal

Hudson-Odoi scored Chelsea’s first goal

Rennes looked overwhelmed by their Premier League opponents in the opening 10 minutes but slowly they began to creep their way into the exchanges, even if they didn’t register a shot.
But a menacing corner did show the French side had at least a chance of worrying their former goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Unfortunately, Chelsea struck before they were able to show just how much they could do offensively.

Werner missed a sitter and also had a strike ruled out for offside

Getty Images

Werner missed a sitter and also had a strike ruled out for offside

Hudson-Odoi may have been the scorer but he’ll be thanking Mason Mount for a beauty of an assist.

The central midfielder won the ball in a tussle with wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga and, after a burst of speed, swept a stunning ball into the path of his teammate.

Hudson-Odoi still had plenty to do but showed plenty of composure to finish the job and slip the ball beyond Alfred Gomis.

The Senegalese shot-stopper had to prove his credentials as Mendy’s replacement just prior to the half-hour mark as he produced a stunning save to deny Mount.

With more good work down the left, Gomis looked out of position after a blocked cross from Chilwell.

Mount smelled blood and struck a goal-bound effort but his opponent, clad in yellow, showed great athleticism to paw the shot away from goal, leaving his thwarted foe laughing in disbelief.

James Lea Siliki should have at least hit the target for Rennes when the ball found its way to him in the Chelsea penalty area. Instead, like Werner earlier, he whacked the ball into the empty stand behind the goal.

Mount was excellent in midfield for Chelsea

Mount was excellent in midfield for Chelsea

Chelsea almost handed their opponents a chance before half-time but after a dreadful pass from Chilwell, Guirassy produced a poor pass which was lapped up by a relieved Thiago Silva.

Rennes appeared buoyed but Damien Da Silva saw his header repelled by Mendy, while a later effort drifted wide as they proved they weren’t about to roll over for Lampard’s side.

After the break it was almost business as usual with Werner believing he had made it 2-0 but this time the linesman lifted his flag and disallowed his header.

But their French opponents rallied again with Hamari Traore’s strike needing to be nudged behind by centre-back Silva, while another effort was well blocked by Tammy Abraham.

Mendy was then called on twice in quick succession as he denied Guirassy at his near post and then he produced as wonderful save from Gerzino Nyamsi, and caught the ball as he accidentally knocked it back towards his own goal, leaving the defender stunned.

Mendy was in fine form again for Chelsea

Mendy was in fine form again for Chelsea

And eventually Rennes’ growth throughout the game was rewarded as Guirassy thumped home a header, unmarked, from Benjamin Bourigeaud’s superb corner.

Bizarrely, it was the striker’s final touch of the ball as he was immediately substituted.

It was another substitution which proved pivotal though as Giroud, off the bench, thudded his own header in after Werner saw an effort on goal loop up off goalkeeper Gomis.

After the final whistle in Chelsea’s match, Sevilla managed to play their part and sealed a 2-1 win over Krasnodar, sealing a place in the Round of 16 for Lampard’s side.



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