Chelsea 1-1 Krasnodar: Youngsters shine as Chelsea are held in their final UCL game

Credit: twitter @iF2is

By Zac Soonsup-Bell

Chelsea settle with a point in their final UEFA Champions League group game meaning they top group E undefeated. Chelsea’s youth boys prove to be the silver lining in Chelsea’s stalemate with Krasnodar.

Fans made their way back into the bridge yesterday evening for the first time in 9 months as Frank’s men were held by Russian side Krasnodar. A disappointing night, yes; but not all for nothing as Chelsea’s academy boys stole the limelight and somewhat proved to be the redeeming factor in an otherwise lacklustre performance.

First Half Narrative

The blues were coming into this game knowing they’d already done their job in qualifying for the knockout stages, so it was never going to be the thrilling fixture that many final UCL group games often provide. Chelsea started on the front foot as expected, having 65% possession for the opening 15, patiently gauging Krasnodar’s set up. Chelsea however didn’t go without a scare or two as Vilhena came close around the 16thminute, striking just over the bar. Warning signs for Chelsea?

The patient play continued from Chelsea as they continued to keep the ball and test the waters into the 20thminute. Billy Gilmour, the young Scotsman, really came into his own around this part of the game; composed as ever, always wanting the ball and constantly passing and moving to create that yard of space to receive and pass again. Faustino Anjorin, the other debutant, was not as prominent in the opening 20 most likely due to him playing out as a left winger when he’s typically a centre mid. Despite this, the glimpses that we did see of him were very impressive and telling of the rest of his game.

In the 24th minute the former Newcastle man, Remy Cabella, put Krasnodar in front with a fine reversed finish into the bottom left corner of Kepa’s goal and it would be unfair to say that it was entirely undeserved. Franks men had just started to have a look of complacency about them, with Jorginho putting in little effort from midfield to track back when Krasnodar were overloading. Not something you want to see from one of our more established players.

Not the start that Chelsea were hoping for, but a swift reply was on the cards as the ball is played into the box to Tammy in which he turns first time and in turn was tripped by the Krasnodar centre back Kaio. Brilliant striker play from Tammy. Jorginho then steps up to take the penalty and just like he has so often done before, converts it with typical style. Chelsea 1 Krasnodar 1.

Credit: twitter @iF2is

The remainder of the first half was without any major chances. The blues rode their luck from time to time, often relying on heavy touches from the Krasnodar players to bail them out of falling behind again.

Level at the break

An interesting first half for Frank’s men as they found themselves level with a team that on paper they should be brushing aside. However, given the circumstances the boys could be forgiven as their job of qualifying is already done. Both Tino and Billy were a cut above the rest in the first half; Billy orchestrating from midfield with an obscene amount of touches and Tino doing damage coming in from that left flank. Defensively however, Chelsea were less than desirable as there seemed to be no urgency about winning the ball back once dispossessed. A step up needed from our boys in the second half.

Second Half Narrative

The second half began slowly, reminiscent of the first, but Billy Gilmour stood out in the opening minutes as he had a few moments of magic to spring everybody back to life. He began the second half like he ended the first; with the ball glued to his feet until he chooses otherwise and releases it. If you couldn’t tell, he was pretty decent last night. 

Krasnodar found themselves playing some tidy football for the opening 15 minutes of the second half but were unable to make anything of it and it was a similar story for the Blues. Kai Havertz opened the half looking just as promising as he puts in the defensive work in midfield but also roaming on the attack, finding good space and playing some crisp passes. However, it was Krasnodar who had the first solid chance in the 63rd minute when Jorginho loses the ball and Krasnodar capitalise but cam only force a decent save from Kepa – warning signs.

Credit: twitter @iF2is

Just three minutes later it’s Chelsea who muster up a huge chance. Tammy finds himself with just the keeper to beat but a fine save by Gorodov’s left boot keeps Krasnodar level. Take nothing away from the Russian keeper but Tammy should really have been putting Chelsea in the lead. The chances began to flow after Tammy’s chance as Anjorin plays a pin-point ball to Havertz but his touch just lets him down much to the keepers liking.

With 25 minutes to go Frank sends on Kante for Kovacic and Werner for Havertz in the hope to get something more from the game. Straight away Kante unsurprisingly finds himself amongst the action as he beats a few players down the right and manages to a hook a cross into Tammy but the chance goes begging.  The substitute Werner also has an immediate impact as around the 77th minute as he beats his man and fires a teasing ball across the six-yard box, but nobody is there to meet it. Tino Anjorin makes way for Giroud in the 80th minute after a fantastic UCL debut in which he showcased why he is capable of being in this first team setup; he wasn’t even in his preferred position!

The final 10 minutes seemed to be one in which all parties involved were already looking past this game and onto their next. A fine battle at the bridge saw Krasnodar take a hard-earned point with them back to Russia.

Job Done

It was a fixture that many Chelsea fans didn’t have high expectations for, but this game wasn’t about showcasing a top team performance and was instead more about getting some rotation in the squad and that’s exactly what Frank did. Take nothing away from Krasnodar as they held their own for 90 minutes against one of the best teams in the Premier League, but Chelsea will undoubtedly feel as though they should be coming away with the three points. Nevertheless, Chelsea finish their Champions league group campaign winning 4, drawing 2 and not losing. A formidable record that we hope is telling of what is to come in the knockout stages.

Youth Leading by Example

Most Chelsea fans were looking at the fixture last night and hoping to see some fresh legs on the pitch. Faustino Anjorin and Billy Gilmour were the two young boys named in the squad and to say they held their own would be an understatement. Gilmour showcased last night that he has all the traits needed to be an elite ball playing midfielder; his composure and ball control saw him weave out of some tight challenges and his passing and movement intelligence is second to none. 

Credit: twitter @iF2is

Anjorin, despite being out of position, showed again why he is so highly rated at the club. Some lovely pieces of trickery scattered throughout the night by the 19-year-old and some fine, defence splitting passes as well proved that he is more than capable to be doing it at the pinnacle of the game.

“The way he played today and how he trains, I see him growing with us,” said Lampard post-match, “He’s going to be a Chelsea player so it’s just about making sure the pathway is right for him.” Some encouraging words from the gaffer. 

A special mention to Kai Havertz as well who had recently just come back from having Covid-19 as he played a fine game out on the right. While I do want to see more from him this season, his performance was a step in the right direction of fulfilling his undeniable talent.

What comes next?

The blues will be looking forward to more European action when the round of 16 ties are announced. Their next league match is on the 12th of December where the blues make the long journey up to Goodison in hopes of keeping up winning ways in the Premier League.

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