Champions League: Chelsea qualifies for last 16 with late victory at Rennes

Chelsea tops Group E with 10 points from four games, level with Sevilla but ahead on goal-difference after the Spanish side also claimed a late 2-1 victory in Russia against Krasnodar to seal its passage into the knockout stages.

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud celebrates his late goal   -  AFP

Striker Olivier Giroud scored a dramatic last-minute winner as Chelsea booked its place in the Champions League last 16 with a 2-1 victory over Stade Rennais at Roazhon Park on Tuesday.

Sehrou Guirassy looked as though he had secured a point for his side with an equaliser minutes earlier, but Giroud profited from some poor Rennes defending to claim the win after Callum Hudson-Odoi had put the visitor in front in the first half.

Chelsea tops Group E with 10 points from four games, level with Sevilla but ahead on goal-difference after the Spanish side also claimed a late 2-1 victory in Russia against Krasnodar to seal its passage into the knockout stages.

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“I'm very happy to qualify with two games to spare,” said Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. “It was a really tough match, they're a very good team. Their recent form doesn't reflect how good they are, it was a tough hard-fought win.”

Rennes, which has one point, had its moments but was largely kept at bay by Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who left the Brittany club for Stamford Bridge in September and made some outstanding saves.

The visitor should have gone in front inside four minutes as Timo Werner inexplicably blasted over from close-range with the goal gaping.

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Hudson-Odois low cross just needed to be steered into the net, but the German forward fired well over the bar from six yards out.

It did grab the lead midway through the first half though when Mason Mounts pin-point 50-yard pass behind the Rennes defence allowed Hudson-Odoi to sprint clear before he showed excellent control and provided a cool finish past Alfred Gomis.

Gomis saved brilliantly from Mount, but it was Mendy who was the busier of the two goalkeepers. He was finally beaten on 85 minutes as Guirassy was left unmarked at a corner and powered his header into the net.

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It looked to have sealed a point for the home side, but when Rennes gave up possession just outside its box, Hakim Ziyech set up Werner, whose shot was saved by Gomis, only for substitute Giroud to head in the rebound.

“It wasn't just his goal when he came on but his hold-up play and physicality,” said Lampard. “...you saw the reaction to his goal, and that wasn't just because it was a late winner, it shows what he does day-to-day and what he means to the team.”

“Everybody kind of feels from the outside what a great professional he is, how highly-regarded he is by his team mates and myself. He's so professional in how he trains and looks after himself that age isn't even a factor for him. He's getting better with age if anything, in terms of how he looks after himself.”

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