Chelsea achieved a flattering result with a 4-0 win over Russian side Fc Krasnodar at the magnificent Krasnodar Stadium. The 35,503-capacity stadium allowed about 10,000 fans into the stadium and they were excited about it with deafening noise levels (sorry Timo Werner).
The Russian side put up a good fight for most of the game. They matched Chelsea physically and tactically but it was not to be. Football is a cruel game. Fc Krasnodar had 11 players missing the tie in what is a freakish injury crisis for them. They had only 7 players on the bench for the tie.
Yury Gazinskiy, Tonny Vilhena, and Daniil Utkin started in a very industrious Krasnodar midfield. Utkin filling in for Eduard Spertsyan who started the weekend game. The backline + goalkeeper was the same from the weekend game. Igor Smolnikov, Alyaksandr Martynovich the captain, Brazilian Kaio, Yevgeni Chernov, and goalkeeper Matvei Safonov make up the backline.
Cristian Ramirez kept his place in the side from the weekend defeat. Marcus Berg and Kristoffer Olsson replaced Magomed Suleymanov and Aleksei Ionov. They lost 1-3 at home to Spartak Moscow and their Champions League opposition was not going to be any easier.
Chelsea started with a frontline consisting of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech for his full debut, and a surprise inclusion in Callum Hudson-Odoi. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic made a very frail pivot in front of Antonio Rudiger and Kurt Zouma. Rudiger is getting a shot back in the squad after “heart to heart” talks with Frank Lampard.
Ben Chilwell and captain Ceasar Azpilicueta complete a back 4 (changing from the 3 at the back that ensured the goalless draw against Manchester United during the weekend). Edouard Mendy kept his 4th clean sheet in 5 appearances for Chelsea on the night. Thiago Silva got the rest a man of his age requires and with Marcos Alonso suspended, Emerson Palmieri made the bench.
Berg steals the ball off Chilwell while the Englishman is pondering his next move in build-up play but the shot is off-target. Moments later Mendy has to dive to his right to keep out an Utkin effort. The Russians were taking the game to the English side. Chelsea had more possession but Krasnodar had more purpose. Ziyech drew a smart stop from Safonov in the 8th minute.
The Russian was impressive against Rennes but was at fault for at least one goal on the day. Ziyech is a proven Champions League performer and he was pulling the strings from his little corner on the right. He fed a pass into Azpilicueta and the cross was controlled by Werner who drew a leg from Kaio. Penalty. Jorginho misses as it comes back off the inside of the post and hits Safonov’s back. His record is 23/27 in general and 10/12 for Chelsea. Not bad but he has missed 2 of his last 4 now.
Vilhena was causing all sorts of problems for Chelsea’s midfield with his intensity. He flashed a shot which deflected off Chilwell leaving Mendy stranded. The shot went wide anyway. Chelsea’s blue boys were struggling to wrestle the game from Krasnodar and a moment of calamity/luck gave them what they needed. Havertz with a smart disguised pass inside to Hudson-Odoi who takes it outside with his first touch to set up a shot.
The shot is lax but Safonov was ahead of himself and let the ball slip in from under him. Krasnodar players were sunk realizing that their spirited display was almost meaningless with one mistake. Ziyech lofted his trademark ball for Havertz at the far post but it hit the side netting. Halftime.
The first chance of the half falls for Kovacic with the ball almost creeping into the right corner of the goal. A Gazinskiy shot bounced off the post from a corner and Zouma took a blow to the head when the ball came back into the box. What an effort! Yet, no goal for the Russians. Krasnodar continues to look more purposeful, moving the ball with intent. Chelsea’s pressing is wild, chaotic, and unsustainable. Krasnodar bypassed Chelsea’s midfield with ease and their pressing is cohesive enough to limit Chelsea’s build-up play.
Krasnodar continues to pile the pressure and they win a free-kick from Kovacic who leaves a leg to take out Utkin. Utkin’s attempt hits the wall and he volleys the rebound away.
Lampard is tired of getting overrun in midfield. He initiates a triple change on 71 that involves N’golo Kante, Christian Pulisic, and Mason Mount. Jorginho, Kovacic, and Odoi come off. 4-3-3 with Mount and Havertz on either side of Kante. There was a difference. Havertz began to drive through the Krasnodar midfield at will and he set up Ziyech who set up Pulisic who fired into Martynovich’s legs and the ball came up to his arm.
The new handball rules say penalty. With no Jorginho, Werner riffled the penalty home. Krasnodar players looked defeated. They had put up a good fight but they were overwhelmed in the end. Ziyech added another from a Werner pass after a Pulisic drive. Tammy fed Pulisic for the last goal. Safonov should be saving that.
Cruelty! What Next?
Murad Musayev and his side did not deserve to lose, let alone lose by 4 goals, but it happened. The Russian climbed through the Krasnodar slopes to become the manager of his local side (from the academy to reserves to managing the team as a caretaker, and now the full-time job). For much of the game, his side took the game to Chelsea but it was not meant to be. Dubious handball calls + individual mistakes sold a game they held by the scruff of its neck.
They now have the strong Sevilla to contend with. Sevilla edged a 1-0 win against Rennes in Spain after an opening day draw with Chelsea. Chelsea FC sit on top of the group and they will face Rennes from the bottom of the table. Krasnodar even with their depleted squad looked like a solid outfit, it will be interesting to see what they can do with a full squad.