LONDON — Tammy Abraham’s backheeled flick set Chelsea on its way to a 2-1 victory over Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday, becoming the fourth English team in the knockout phase.
Christian Pulisic laid the ball off to the right flank where Willian crossed for Abraham to net his 13th goal of the season in all competitions with a slick finish in the 19th minute.
“It was just about getting in the box,” Abraham said. “(Cesar Azpilicueta) was telling me to run across the goal and that's what I did. It was very difficult. The ball was in the air and I couldn't even see it, I had rain in my eyes.”
Overwhelming the French visitors, Chelsea extended its lead in the 35th when Azpilicueta evaded the defence to dart into the penalty area and meet Emerson Palmieri’s corner with a header
Mounting its first meaningful attack after 77 minutes at Stamford Bridge, Lille ensured it would be an anxious conclusion for Chelsea thanks to a familiar face. Loic Remy, a Chelsea striker from 2014 to 2017, swept in a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
“It has been happening where we play better and suffer in the last minute,” Azpilicueta said. “We started very well but we can still score more goals. We are conceding a lot of goals and it's frustrating.”
Still, Chelsea secured its passage as Group H runner-up to join Premier League rivals Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City in the round of 16.
Frank Lampard is the first English manager to qualify a team from the Champions League group phase since his uncle, Harry Redknapp, did it in the 2010-11 season with Tottenham.
“Today was a strong sign of what we have to do,” Lampard said. “It should have been a game that was finished a lot earlier.”
Lille exited Europe with a single point while Valencia advanced as group winners by winning 1-0 at Ajaxe. Both Valencia and Chelsea finished with 11 points, while Ajax had 10.
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