Chelsea produced their best Champions League performance of the season so far to book their place in the last-16 with a game to spare as Juventus were blown away at Stamford Bridge.
The academy graduate trio of Trevor Chalobah, Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi were all on target before Timo Werner’s stoppage time effort capped a statement 4-0 victory for the defending champions, who have laboured at times in Europe this season, but displayed here the kind of form that has taken them clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Romelu Lukaku returned to the match day squad for the first time since hobbling off against Malmo last month but with neither he nor Werner yet fit to start it was Christian Pulisic charged with leading the line in the absence of the injured Kai Havertz.
As so often in recent weeks, however, the Blues’ chief attacking threat came from their wing-backs, Ben Chilwell slicing when well-placed in the early exchanges, while James enjoyed freedom of the right flank against the narrow Italians and almost caught Wojciech Szczesny out at his near-post with a disguised free-kick.
From the resulting corner, the deserved breakthrough arrived, Chalobah lashing home a loose ball from Hakim Ziyech’s corner, with Juventus’ appeals for handball against Antonio Rudiger falling on deaf ears. The ball had indeed struck the German’s hand, but only after taking a nick off a visiting defender at close-quarters.
The hosts had the imperious Thiago Silva to thank for preserving their lead moments later as the Brazilian produced a superb goalline clearance to deny Alvaro Morata, the highlight in another swaggering masterclass of a display from the veteran defender.
It was just about Juve’s only threatening moment of a first-half in which Federico Chiesa, the electrifying forward who lit up London on his visits here with Italy in the summer, hardly had a kick.
James had gone close to doubling the lead before the interval, chesting and lashing across goal, only to find Szczesny equal to his effort.
It was a warning that went unheeded, however, as the right-back found Chilwell’s cross helped into his path by the attempted clearance of Matthijs de Ligt and this time gave the Juve ‘keeper no chance from an identical position, thundering into the far corner.
It was the first of two goals in three minutes that ended the game as a contest and – given the two sides’ head-to-head record – could prove decisive in deciding top spot in the group. Again, the outstanding James was involved, sliding inside for Ziyech, whose intricate work, along with that of substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek, teed up Hudson-Odoi to make it three.
Loftus-Cheek’s introduction had come before half-time as he replaced N’Golo Kante, and the in-form Chilwell would also limp off before the end to give Thomas Tuchel cause for concern despite the result, with Manchester United to come here at the weekend.
Just as the injuries threatened to take some of the shine off an otherwise perfect night, however, Werner ensured things ended on a bright note, marking his return with a late fourth after James’ wonderful cross-field pass had allowed Ziyech to slide into the six-yard box.
The result more than avenges Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat in Turin earlier in the group stage, and means they will advance as group winners if they win away to Zenit St. Petersburg on the final day, regardless of results elsewhere.
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