Hakim Ziyech’s first Chelsea goal on the occasion of his full debut was the highlight of an excellent away European performance from the Blues, which included a third consecutive clean sheet in all competitions.
Despite not hitting top gear until late in the encounter, and missing a penalty with the game goalless, it proved a largely comfortable night’s work in the Caucasus, with over 11,000 locals permitted to watch the match. Roman Abramovich was one of those in attendance in his homeland.
It was Jorginho who didn't take advantage of the chance to put us ahead from 12 yards, but we would carry a lead into the interval courtesy of Callum Hudson-Odoi’s first Champions League goal. It won’t be his best, the home side's keeper not covering himself in glory, but it got us up and running.
Krasnodar threatened sporadically and the longer the game went on with us 1-0 up, the greater the chance of late drama. Happily, the three goals scored in the final 15 minutes were by those wearing our ember glow third kit.
First Timo Werner thumped a penalty in for his first Champions League goal for Chelsea, and Ziyech quickly made it 3-0 from Werner’s pass. Christian Pulisic’s last-minute strike was the cherry on the top of the cake, and kept our fine record against Russian opposition up. The four goals and signs of attacking fluency will have pleased Frank Lampard greatly and, after two shutouts, Eduoard Mendy and his defence were solid again to keep Krasnodar at bay.
Lampard made four changes to his starting XI and reverted to a 4-2-3-1 system. The boss handed Toni Rudiger his first appearance of the season and Ziyech his full debut. Hudson-Odoi and Mateo Kovacic were the other fresh faces from the weekend draw at Old Trafford.
It was our hosts who started with a greater authority in front of around 11,000 of their supporters, and Mendy was called into action as early as the fourth minute. He sprung to his right to parry Daniil Utkin’s bending effort.
Ziyech, making his first start since early March, then had our first shot in anger after intelligently turning and driving into the box. Krasnodar’s keeper Matvei Safonov shovelled it behind.
In the 13th minute, the Moroccan picked up another good area in the inside-right channel before releasing Cesar Azpilicueta. His low cross found Werner, whose first touch was too quick for Krasnodar defender Kaio, inviting a foul.
It was clearly a penalty, but Jorginho could not capitalise. His effort sent Safonov the wrong way, thudded against the inside of the post before rebounding off the keeper’s back to Werner, whose effort was blocked.
For a moment it looked like we would be quickly punished for our profligacy, but thankfully Tonny Vilhena’s deflected shot from the edge of the box skipped past the post with Mendy wrongfooted.
Lampard wanted quicker passing from his players to dissect the congested Krasnodar midfield, and a sharper move eight minutes before the interval ended in the opening goal.
After Ben Chilwell’s accurate long ball forward, Ziyech, Werner and Kai Havertz were all involved in shifting the ball at speed, eventually finding Hudson-Odoi in space. The 19-year-old’s effort was close to Safonov, who should have done better than allow it to slip under him. Not that Hudson-Odoi cared one jot after his first Champions League goal!
Havertz had a couple of headed attempts prior to the half-time whistle blowing. It had been a solid if unspectacular showing from the Blues.
Our search for a two-goal cushion started early in the second period, Kovacic driving wide from the edge of the box. It was not a dissimilar effort to his pair of successful strikes last season.
When it came to the corners they had won, Krasnodar had preferred the short option, but with 51 minutes on the clock they delivered one straight into the box. It was met first time by Yuri Gazinski whose left-footed volley into the ground bounced up and onto the crossbar. Kurt Zouma was brave to deal with the follow-up cross, requiring treatment after a bang of heads.
Midway through the second half, Havertz led a lightening break and picked out Ziyech, who cut onto his left but couldn’t direct his shot away from Safonov. Krasnodar went straight up the other end and Mendy had to save from Marcus Berg.
With 20 minutes left, Lampard turned to his subs. On came Mason Mount, N’Golo Kante and Pulisic, and off went Kovacic, Jorginho and Hudson-Odoi.
Pulisic’s first involvement was to have a shot at goal the referee deemed hit Aleksandr Martynovich’s hand, and this time there was no mistake from the spot-kick. Werner assumed responsibility and crashed his effort high into the net.
Three minutes later, it was three. Mount won a header on halfway, Pulisic slipped a pass inside to Werner who in turn found Ziyech on the penalty spot. He controlled neatly and fired across the keeper into the far corner, a neat finish to mark his maiden Blues goal.
It was Ziyech’s last involvement before being replaced by Tammy Abraham, with Emerson replacing Chilwell, who had put in another good performance.
The final word went to Pulisic, who opened his account for the campaign in the final minute, firing through Safonov’s legs after Abraham had run the channel. It put an extra layer of gloss on a fine away win.
State of play in Group E
The victory, our third away from home in the Champions League under Lampard, moves us top of Group E, ahead of Sevilla who beat Rennes 1-0. Our next two European assignments are against the French team, either side of the international break, with the first at Stamford Bridge a week today.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Rudiger, Chilwell (Emerson 80); Jorginho (Kante 71), Kovacic (Mount 71); Ziyech, Havertz, Hudson-Odoi (Pulisic 71); Werner (Abraham 80).Unused subs Caballero, Ziger, James, Tomori, Christensen, Giroud.Scorers Hudson-Odoi 37, Werner (pen) 76, Ziyech 79, Pulisic 90
Krasnodar (4-2-3-1): Safonov; Smolnikov, Kaio, Martynovich, Chernov; Utkin (Suleymanov 74), Vilhena; Olsson (Spertsyan 82), Gazinski, Ramirez; Berg (c).Unused subs Gorodov, Sinitsin, Kutovoi, Sabua, LitvinovBooked Olsson 22, Martynovich 74
Referee Ali Palabiyik from Turkey.