LONDON -- Loic Remy enjoyed some memorable moments during his two years as a Chelsea player, but this was the first time he had left Stamford Bridge in shocked silence. Returning to west London with Lille, the former Chelsea striker was thoroughly anonymous until the moment, 12 minutes from the end of Tuesday's decisive Champions League Group H encounter, when he stepped onto Jonathan Bamba's cut-back from the left and sent a left-footed shot bouncing into the roof of Kepa Arrizabalaga's net via the underside of the crossbar.
Chelsea had been cruising to a routine 2-0 win moments earlier -- with the home fans noisily heralding an immaculately timed challenge on Luiz Araujo by Kurt Zouma -- but Remy's strike sent shivers through the stadium. In the Chelsea dugout, Frank Lampard suddenly cut a concerned, furtive figure. One more goal for Lille, and his side were out. Had Remy shot at goal with a little more conviction after haring into the hosts' box in the second minute of stoppage time, they would have been.
As it was, Chelsea held on for a 2-1 success that took them into the knockout phase. But having failed to keep a clean sheet for the ninth time in their past 10 matches in all competitions, Lampard's young side once again displayed signs of the vulnerability that has repeatedly bedevilled them in the Champions League and robbed them of crucial recent momentum in the Premier League, in which they have lost in three of their past four outings.
"We need to take more of our chances," Lampard said. "[Lille] probably had two shots at the back end of the game, and one goes in. That was the frustrating thing in what was a very good performance.
"Today was a perfect example of where we can get better. Once you get to the next stage and how cutthroat it will be, looking at the opposition we'll be up against, we can't afford to miss chances or give chances away."
Of course, anyone who has watched Chelsea regularly in the Champions League this season will have known that there would be a sting in the tail. In each of their five previous group fixtures, a result-altering goal had been scored in the final 16 minutes, so it was entirely fitting that it should end this way, with disbelieving groans when fourth official Ioannis Papadopoulos signalled that there would be five minutes of stoppage time and elated cheers at full-time when the final whistle finally brought the home supporters' torment to an end.
In his pregame news conference, Lampard lamented Chelsea's failure to kill teams off in taut home matches, and it was the same wearily familiar story against Lille, with Christian Pulisic, Willian and Mateo Kovacic all guilty of squandering chances to put the game to bed before Remy's strike set nerves jangling. This was only a second-string Lille team to boot, after visiting coach Christophe Galtier elected to make seven changes to his starting lineup following his team's elimination from the competition.
For all the late discomfort, there were some positives to be taken from the Chelsea performance. Antonio Rudiger made an authoritative return to the starting XI on what was his first appearance at Stamford Bridge since April following knee and groin injuries, impressively marshalling the back four and provoking approving roars of "Ruuuudy!" every time he intervened decisively to break up a Lille attack.
Jorginho also made an effective return, albeit in his case having been out of the starting lineup for only the past two league games as Lampard rotated in midfield. The Italy international's recall brought about a return to the 4-3-3 formation that was instituted at Chelsea by Maurizio Sarri, Lampard's predecessor, with Jorginho anchoring the midfield and Kovacic and N'Golo Kante playing either side of him.
Jorginho was his usual, diligent self, snuffing out Lille's attempts to counterattack and recycling the ball smartly, and his presence in front of the back four had the added benefit of allowing Kovacic and Kante to indulge their more creative instincts. The pair were both involved in Chelsea's neatly constructed 19th-minute opener, with Kante astutely chesting Kovacic's pass from deep into the path of Pulisic, who freed Willian to dart past Jeremy Pied and cross for Tammy Abraham to convert from close range.
Chelsea's second goal, 10 minutes before half-time, was an altogether more rudimentary affair, Emerson Palmieri swinging a corner towards the near post from the hosts' right flank and skipper Cesar Azpilicueta stealing away from Zeki Celik to plant a firm header past Mike Maignan.
After a frustrating 1-0 loss to Valencia in their opener and a madcap 4-4 draw against Ajax in early November, this was Chelsea's first home victory of the group phase and their first home win in the competition since a 6-0 drubbing of Qarabag in September 2017.
But with Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig the teams potentially awaiting Lampard's side in the round of 16, their next opponents in the competition are unlikely to be quite as forgiving as Lille.