Hakim Ziyech stars as Chelsea crush Krasnodar with Abramovich watching

Jacob Steinberg
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Anton Vaganov/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Anton Vaganov/Reuters

Chelsea disappointed 11,000 Russians inside the Krasnodar Stadium but managed to keep the most important one entertained. There was no danger of Roman Abramovich drifting off as he watched Frank Lampard’s gifted forwards rack up the goals in southern Russia.

After stodgy stalemates with Sevilla and Manchester United, defensive stability accompanied attacking flair, helped by Hakim Ziyech marking his first start by leaving Krasnodar’s back four dizzy.

Ziyech was outstanding on the right wing, creating, probing and making it 3-0 after a slick combination with Timo Werner, another glamorous summer signing. For Abramovich, watching first hand what his funds have bought, it was a night to savour.

Related: Krasnodar 0-4 Chelsea: Champions League – as it happened

As for Lampard, it was a glimpse of where the pieces might fall after receiving heavy backing from Chelsea’s owner, who was present to see his club in the flesh for the first time in more than a year.

The challenge for Lampard remains finding the right blend after spending on attacking reinforcements in the summer. Chelsea’s manager has more options than last season but that brings new headaches. How does he keep everyone happy?

The trip to Krasnodar, who were weighed down by nine injuries, offered a chance to experiment. Callum Hudson-Odoi came in for a rare start on the left wing and calmed Chelsea’s nerves with the opener after being set up by Kai Havertz, the £62m signing from Bayer Leverkusen. Later on, with Krasnodar ragged, there were goals for Werner, Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, who shone after coming off the bench.

Chelsea, who have four points from their first two games in Group E, had displayed their potential. Yet it was not the perfect display. There were a few wobbles at time, including an early penalty miss from Jorginho, and Krasnodar will rue hitting the bar when they trailed 1-0.

All the same Lampard was entitled to feel positive. A third consecutive clean sheet came with Thiago Silva resting at home and Antonio Rüdiger doing well after being restored in central defence. All things considered, Abramovich picked a good moment to have a look at a Lampard side in competitive action for the first time.

“I always feel the support of the owner,” Lampard said. “To have him here is a nice bonus. I didn’t manage to see him because before the game I was in the dressing room. I’m very pleased we put on what I thought was a good performance.”

Perhaps it was understandable that Chelsea took a while to adjust to the unusual sight of fans inside the ground. It felt like a mental challenge for a team who have been playing Premier League games in empty arenas since June and there were moments when they looked thrown by reminders of the old normal.

A slow tempo allowed Krasnodar to maintain a solid shape and a lack of urgency on the ball came with risks, not least when Havertz dithered after four minutes, allowing Daniil Utkin to force Mendy to make a plunging save.

Perhaps it is a stylistic issue with Havertz, a languid talent. On the one hand the mistake that led to Utkin’s chance brought to mind Havertz running into trouble and gifting a goal to Danny Ings in Chelsea’s 3-3 draw with Southampton. Yet it was hard to be overly critical of the German attacker after he drifted into space to create Hudson-Odoi’s goal.

It was a big moment for Hudson-Odoi. Under pressure to impress, the youngster provided the ruthlessness, shifting the ball on to his right foot before getting slightly lucky with a shot that squirmed underneath Matvei Safonov, Krasnodar’s 21-year-old goalkeeper.

Lampard praised Hudson-Odoi and Ziyech, who was full of urgency after recovering from a knee injury. The former Ajax winger demonstrated his ability to carve open a defence in the 13th minute, releasing César Azpilicueta, whose pass to Werner led to Kaio conceding a penalty.

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Abramovich, who took up Israeli citizenship after withdrawing his application for a new UK visa in 2018, prepared to celebrate as he took in his first live Chelsea game since a friendly against RB Salzburg in the summer of 2019. Jorginho went through his usual penalty routine, hopping, skipping, waiting for the goalkeeper to move first. Safonov went the wrong way. He escaped when the ball hit the opposite post.

Profligacy from Jorginho, who also missed a penalty against Liverpool last month, led to a sloppy spell. Krasnodar stuck at it. The depleted hosts almost equalised when Yuri Gazinsky hit the bar.

Chelsea woke up after that scare and restored order after introducing N’Golo Kanté, Mason Mount and Pulisic, who won another penalty after his shot was handled by Aleksandr Martynovich. This time Werner slammed the ball home.

Soon Werner found Ziyech, wriggling into space before finishing calmly. Abramovich was a happy man, even more so when Pulisic added a fourth in added time.