A rampant late showing from Chelsea ensured they gained their first victory of their 2020/21 Champions League campaign as they came out 4-0 winners away at Russian side Krasnodar.
Following back to back 0-0 draws against Sevilla and Manchester United, Chelsea will be relieved to have their goal-scoring touch back, as goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic gained them all three points in Russia.
In spite of the return of fans into the stadium for their first home Champions League fixture of the season, it was not enough to inspire Krasnodar to any goals or points, despite a competitive team performance for the first 70 minutes of the match.
- Story of the Match
Coming off the back of a very defensive orientated match at Old Trafford against Manchester United on Saturday, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard made four changes for the match.
Lampard took out Reece James, Thiago Silva, N'Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic bringing in Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mateo Kovacic, Hakim Ziyech, and giving a first start of the season to out of favour centre back Antonio Rudiger.
As for Krasnodar, their squad has been recently hit by a series of injuries to key first team players, so much so they could only name seven substitutes, four less than their opposition. Their manager, Murad Musayev, made three changes from the side that lost to Spartak Moscow on Saturday, with Eduard Spertsyan, Magomed Suleymanov and Alexsei Ionov being replaced in the starting lineup by Daniil Utkin, Kristoffer Olsson and Marcus Berg.
The game did not start well for the underdogs Krasnodar, as centre back Kaio Pantaleao was judged to have fouled Timo Werner early on, resulting in a penalty for Chelsea. Jorginho stepped up but let Krasnodar off the hook by seeing his penalty strike the post.
Chelsea managed to get their break through in the 37th minute, as nice work from Kai Havertz set up Callum Hudson-Odoi, whose shot managed to squirm underneath goalkeeper Matvei Safonov to give Chelsea a half time lead.
However, it was the Russian side who started the second half the better side, and Yuri Gazinskiy came closest by hitting the crossbar from a corner. Despite heavy pressure from Krasnodar, they could not get past Chelsea's defence that stood firm throughout.
Chelsea got the chance to double their lead after Alyaksandr Martynovich was judged to have blocked Christian Pulisic's shot with his hand. Up stepped Timo Werner, who buried the penalty to put the game beyond any doubt.
Chelsea soon added a third as Werner turned provider to set up Hakim Ziyech, who capped off a wonderful performance on his first start for the club with a left footed finish into the opposite bottom corner.
Then in the last few minutes of normal time, substitutes combined as Tammy Abraham set up Christian Pulisic, who saw his shot go through the goalkeeper for his first goal of the season.
A comfortable victory in score-line for Chelsea, but it was a game very much in the balance for the most part. Another clean sheet for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy will please Frank Lampard, and an attack that was struggling for confidence seemed like it was much improved.
The Main Takeaway
A Tale of Two Chelseas:
After looking so fragile defensively against Southampton and West Bromwich Albion, it was no surprise to see Frank Lampard enforce a more defensive system against Sevilla and Manchester United. Despite back to back clean sheets, there was some concern about how the attacking players were utilised, with the team looking bereft of ideas going forward and Timo Werner looking increasingly isolated.
Tonight's game saw both sides of Chelsea, the pedestrian yet solid side seen in recent games, and a more vibrant, attacking side that many saw Chelsea as being following recent acquisitions. The concern may come for Chelsea fans in terms of the catalyst of becoming that attacking team, which we only saw tonight following Werner's penalty to give Chelsea a two goal cushion.
Had Chelsea not been awarded that penalty and it had remained 1-0, what would have happened? The team look set on defending its one goal advantage all second half prior to that point and looked pretty lacklustre while doing it. Following Werner's goal, Chelsea looked fresh and exciting, always looking for goals and the finishes from Ziyech and Pulisic are a testament to that, making dangerous runs inside the box which has not been seen really thus far from wingers this season.
When playing this way in an attacking sense, Chelsea utilised a 433 formation with Mason Mount and Kai Havertz as attacking 8s with N'Golo Kante holding, reverting from the 4231 formation that started the game with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic holding. This is a system that has seen Chelsea play some of their best football in recent seasons, and mirrors the system used most notably by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. For Chelsea to compete for titles, it looks like the 433 is the way forward: it gives more options for attack, it allows more freedom for the wide players, and will be fine defensively if the back four and goalkeeper are trusted and consistent, which looks like it will be the case.
The question comes is why was this not utilised earlier, both in the match and in the season as a whole? Are Chelsea afraid of conceding goals following the defensive horror show against Southampton? Why was the plan against Krasnodar to mostly defend, particularly as there was more implications of a Krasnodar equaliser than Chelsea finding a second goal to kill the game, even though it was very apparent that two goals would be enough to see Chelsea home and dry?
There was a lot to be pleased about from a Chelsea perspective from their display tonight- the forwards looked on song, another clean sheet was picked up, and Hakim Ziyech is quickly finding his feet in a Chelsea shirt. Ahead of a tough trip to Burnley this coming Saturday it will be interesting to see what system Lampard goes for, and whether Chelsea can build upon the attacking frameworks from this display or whether it will be back to 'boring, boring Chelsea'.