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Lukaku ensures Chelsea kick off Champions League defence with victory

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Romelu Lukaku is already beginning to look like something of a bargain.

Chelsea paid a record £97.5million transfer fee for a big game player to make the difference not just in big games but also on nervy, edgy European nights like these.

Incredibly, Lukaku has now scored four goals in as many games for Chelsea and when they needed some inspiration their formidable No9 was on hand again.

Lukaku has returned to Chelsea a player transformed as he is clever, powerful and a brilliant centre forward in the mood to rule Europe. And, best of all, he looks ruthless.

His finishing was lethal again and decided the match as Chelsea made a winning start to the defence of their European crown.

It was hardly the sort of victory and performance to send shockwaves through the rest of Europe but there is no doubting that Chelsea will take some stopping again this year.

Zenit St Petersburg were tough, stubborn opponents who had chances of their own but Chelsea won the trophy four months ago without a classic centre forward or prolific goal scorer.

Now they have both rolled into one with Lukaku as he has the ability to push them further in the Premier League title race and they should fear no-one in Europe either.

Thomas Tuchel said before the game that winning is “addictive” and he has definitely brought an extra edge to Stamford Bridge because they just tend to get the job done.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin handed out individual awards to Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Edouard Mendy before kick-off after last season’s success.

Maybe that was a mistake because Zenit looked in the mood to spoil the party and being successful also tends to make you a target, a team there to be shot at.

It was clear from very early on that Chelsea would not have it all their own way and the home side just could not find any space, inspiration or chances in the first half.

The first shot on target did not arrive until the 37th minute when Zenit’s Yaroslav Rakitskyi curled an effort towards goal but it was a comfortable save for Mendy.https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mirror.co.uk%2Fsport%2Ffootball%2Fmatch-reports%2Fromelu-lukaku-ensures-chelsea-kick-24986081&cre=center&cip=17&view=web

But you can always rely on Antonio Rudiger to lift the crowd with his passion and commitment. He ran from his own half, storming forward to the edge of the Zenit box before firing just wide.

Chelsea began to take charge, they pushed Zenit further back and it is on nights like these that you can feel the importance of a home crowd roaring the team on and giving them extra energy.

Cesar Azpilicueta pushed forward, found some space on the right and then teased a deep and curling cross to the back post.

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PHOTOS: Buhari receives no. 10 Jersey as FIFA President, Gianni Infantino visits Aso Rock

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday received the FIFA President, Mr Gianni Infantino, and CAF President Dr Patrice Motsepe in State House, Abuja.

During the courtesy visit, the FIFA president presented a number 10 jersey and a football to President Buhari.

The No. 10 jersey is regarded as an iconic number in football and is usually worn by players believed to be skillful and have a great impact on a team.

According to a Facebook post by Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, Sports Minister, Sunday Dare was also in attendance during the presentation.

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FIFA Rankings: Nigeria maintain position as Belgium, Brazil, England occupy top 10 [Full list]

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles maintained 34th position in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking that was released on Thursday.

The ranking was published on the world football governing body’s official website.

In Africa, Nigeria maintains its number five position.

Senegal is Africa’s highest-ranked team as they are in 20th place, Tunisia are in 25th, while Algeria are 30th and Morocco in 33rd position.

Guinea-Bissau moved up as they climbed to 105th, while Egypt and Sudan, dropped to 48th and 127th spots respectively.

Liberia rose to 144th, Cape Verde remained at 77th and the Central African Republic dropped to 124th.

Meanwhile, the top ten countries in the world are Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Mexico and Denmark.

The next FIFA world ranking will be released on 21 October, 2021

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Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan: Jordan Henderson’s stunner seals comeback win

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Liverpool opened their Champions League campaign with an instant classic as Jordan Henderson’s stunning strike secured three points against AC Milan.

It was a memorable night at Anfield as the Reds sealed a 3-2 comeback victory over the Italians.

Trent Alexander-Arnold helped fire the Reds in front as his deflected effort, which went down as a Fikayo Tomori own goal, gave them a well-deserved lead.

But after Mohamed Salah failed to convert a spot-kick to double their advantage, the Serie A side were somehow in the lead at halftime after a quickfire double from Ante Rebic and Brahim Diaz.

Salah then redeemed himself by bringing the hosts level just after the break, before Henderson’s screamer put the Reds back on top to seal the win.

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