Romelu Lukaku grabbed the headlines, but Antonio Rudiger was the star of the show during Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Zenit St Petersburg.
Left in the cold during the latter stages of Frank Lampard’s tenure, the Germany defender continued his extraordinary change of fortune under Thomas Tuchel on Tuesday night.
Already established as fan favourite at Stamford Bridge for his crucial role in last season’s Champions League success, Rudiger almost wrote himself into folklore with a stunning solo attempt against the Russian champions.
With Chelsea lacking ideas, the centre-back charged from his own half into the Zenit box and fired a fierce shot wide, displaying all the character and inspiration which makes him so popular in west London.
Not only that, the charismatic 28-year-old was a rock at the back, blocking Zenit’s best chance and coming to Chelsea’s rescue for the umpteenth time this calendar year.
It’s unclear why Lampard chose against selecting Rudiger, but one thing is certain – Tuchel absolutely loves him.
And speaking on commentary duty for talkSPORT, former Blues midfielder Andy Townsend heaped praise on Chelsea’s hero.
He said: “You can’t imagine a successful Chelsea team without him.
“He’s got those inspirational qualities, he gets people off their seats as a centre-half! There aren’t too many that do that.
“Every now and again he goes crazy and tries to hit one, blazing it out onto the King’s Road.
“But he’s just got that about him. He wants it. He wants to make something happen for the team when it’s all gone a bit quiet.
“And defensively, very few players get the better of him.”
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