Chelsea reach Champions League knockout stages as Giroud strikes late

Chelsea sealed qualification for the Champions League knockout stages ahead of schedule by beating Rennes 2-1.

The Blues went into the match knowing they would qualify for the Round of 16 with two games to spare with a win. Despite a late scare, they managed to do just that.

Callum Hudson-Odoi’s opener was cancelled out by a header from Serhou Guirassy in the final 10 minutes to almost deny Chelsea that possibility. However, Olivier Giroud grabbed a winner in stoppage time to secure progression.

Frank Lampard fielded a fairly strong side for the match. Edouard Mendy started in goal at the venue he called his home last season; there were also starts for fellow summer signings Timo Werner, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell.

Werner had the first big chance of the match, somehow firing over from just yards out after an inviting cross from Hudson-Odoi on the right.

It was Hudson-Odoi who gave the Blues the lead after 21 minutes. Mason Mount won the ball in his own half before expertly picking the winger out with a long ball over the top.

Hudson-Odoi latched on to it, finishing clinically past the onrushing keeper to double his personal tally for this Champions League campaign.

Boosted after recording his assist, Mount then forced a brilliant reaction save from Alfred Gomis, the man who has replaced Mendy in the Rennes goal.

Gomis had moved forward to block a cross from Ben Chilwell, but somehow managed to claw away Mount’s resulting shot while falling back.

Rennes were asking a few questions at the other end, though, and Chilwell had a nervous moment after giving the ball away, only to see Guirassy fail to exploit the chance.

Mendy was then called into action to beat away a powerful header from Damien Da Silva, as the Blues weathered the storm before the break.

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Rennes ask questions but Chelsea advance

Rennes continued to ask some questions in the second half, with Guirassy winning a corner after Mendy saved his shot. The resulting set piece prompted something of a goalmouth scramble, but Mendy managed to keep it out.

By this point, Krasnodar had equalised against Sevilla in the other match in the group. That meant Chelsea needed to win on the night to reach the next round in advance.

But Rennes’ pressure looked like it had paid off when Guirassy headed home an equaliser in the 85th minute. Leaping high to get on the end of a corner, the striker had a free header, which he powered past Mendy.

It marked the first goal Chelsea have conceded in their group this season. However, it wasn’t enough for Rennes.

Chelsea restored their lead courtesy of Giroud in stoppage time. After coming on from the bench, the striker – who has been the subject of plenty of transfer speculation recently – headed in the winner in another reminder of what he can still contribute.

It proved to be the last decisive action, giving Chelsea their place in the Round of 16. Sevilla too restored their own lead in Russia, thus achieving qualification as well.