Frank Lampard’s Blues leave Russia with a hard-fought victory against a feisty and physical Krasnodar side. Chelsea had their troubles in the first half and the beginning portion of the second but was able to weather the Russian storm and bang 4 goals past them.
The starting lineup was enticing giving fans much relief over the new inclusions that were made. Chelsea made a total of 5 changes with Antonio Rüdiger making his return to the side since late July against Wolves. His return came with eyebrows raised after his abysmal displays last season and with Germany on International duty; but positives talks with the manager have seemingly rekindled some kind of relationship between the two. Consequently, this once again left out the promising English Centre-back, Fikayo Tomori, out of the lineup to the dismay of many fans. The German defender did well and executed the basics to a satisfactory level and made sure to not get into dangerous situations. Mateo Kovačić was another name that returned to the starting eleven but disappointed many with a lack of sharpness in his passes.
The first half was riddled with inconsistencies both offensively and defensively, making the Blues unconvincing overall. Krasnodar made it difficult for Chelsea to break between the lines and did not allow time for our midfielders to operate. They managed to keep our wide players in check by overloading their flanks and denying penetration on the wide channels. Their compact man-pressure drew a lot of intense challenges and fouls that were not given by the referee. Mateo Kovačić’s passes were more than inefficient throughout the night and placed the Blues in several counter attack circumstances that tested our keeper in numerous amounts. Édouard Mendy looked secure and powerful in his saves and finished the night with another clean sheet to his name. Additionally, Mendy was able to record his second Champions League clean sheet in one month whereas, Kepa Arrizabalaga has only recorded 1 CL clean sheet in his whole Chelsea career.
Our midfield did not have the correct balance and as a result, gave Krasnodar the time to pickpocket several Chelsea players in our own half. Callum Hudson-Odoi took his a chance at goal with success in the 37th minute after Havertz laid a wonderful short ball to his feet. His shot went directly at the keeper’s lower left side but did not implement a convincing saving effort to the stop the shot form riddling past him. Hudson Odoi’s decision to shoot first time proved the quote that if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.
The first 45 minutes were worrying and we as fans, started to worry about whether we could hold on to this narrow 1-0 lead after the home side were quickly growing back into the game. Lampard was not happy with his midfield at all and went for a bold choice to substitute both Jorginho and Kovačić in hopes for a revitalization in the middle of the park. Mason Mount and N’golo Kanté were reintroduced and Chelsea aligned in a more traditional 4-3-3 with the French midfielder as the deepest man in front of our CBs. Ordinarily, this would open up gaps for the opposition to exploit but Chelsea were able to control the match more efficiently with Mount and Havertz operating as attacking 8s.
Timo Werner was another catalyst for our attack as he was able to draw many fouls including an early penalty in the 12th minute. Christian Pulisic helped Chelsea improve their attack in the final third, generating a couple of chances before his goal in the 90th minute.
In summary, the Blues will leave Russia with a much needed win and an impressive set of goals from their attacking players. The change of formation late in the second half should also be praised with Lampard making the appropriate tinkering to shift the balance of the game. There are negatives to talk about such as the incapability of our double pivot midfield, Jorginho/Kovačić, who struggled vastly against Krasnodar’s press. Nevertheless, Chelsea have now captured a key 3 points for their group standings as they face Rennes next week. It is key for Chelsea to build from this match and seek to gain more consistent results in the upcoming busy schedule.