Chelsea finish second in group after late Zenit equaliser in entertaining draw.
- Timo Werner scores Chelsea’s fastest Champions League goal
- Slack defending sees Thomas Tuchel’s team fall behind
- Romelu Lukaku back among the goals before Magomed Ozdoyev screamer
FT: Zenit 3 Chelsea 3
Chelsea will finish second in the group. Tuchel took a calculated gamble tonight with eight changes but they were understandably insecure at the back and Zenit made them pay.
GOAL! Chelsea pegged back
Spoke too soon. Zenit knocked a long ball forward towards Dzyuba, he won the knock down which enables them to sustain the attack. The cross is also met by the big striker and the ball drops free for Ozdoyev who cracks a half volley into the top corner from 25 yards. Kepa got a hand to it but there was too much power.
90 minutes – six minutes of added time
Chelsea looking pretty comfortable now.
Zenit look for a swift response but Chelsea defend their penalty area well. Then they settle into another period of possession.
GOAL GIVEN: Chelsea in front
It was a close offside call against Werner, he is used to them, but it stands.
GOAL! Chelsea lead and just might win the group
Another good piece of intricate football in a tight space. Pulisic and Ziyech play a one-two around the edge of the D, Pulisic slips the ball to Werner in the left channel and after shifting the ball to one side he drills low into the net. Was he onside?
Pulisic somehow digs a cross out from the right to Werner at the back post but he tried to squeeze the header in from a tight angle rather than knocking the ball across the box. His team-mates were not happy.
Juventus still only winning by one goal against Malmo so there could be a twist in the talent. Zenit have a corner but it comes to nothing. Marcos Alonso is now on down the Chelsea left but he misplaces a pass that does out for a throw.
Chelsea put their foot on the ball and show some composure. Good goalkeeping from Kerzhakov to come a claim a long Saul diagonal. Play is stopped with Zenit striker Azmoun down and struggling. Zenit do have the big target man Artem Dzyuba on the bench. And that’s the change made.
Lukaku enjoys Russian opposition
4 – Romelu Lukaku has scored in all four of his UEFA Champions League appearances against Russian sides (5 goals), home and away against CSKA Moscow in 2017-18 and home and away against Zenit this season. Love. pic.twitter.com/6NpPwHyGtN— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 8, 2021
Zenit enjoying a second wind now, patiently trying to find that extra pass in the box. They have another corner. Chelsea defend well but Zenit come forward again and flash a ball right across the six-yard box. Azmoun and Sarr collided but not sure that’s a foul. Lukaku is coming off with 75 minutes in the tank, replaced by Havertz.
That is a superb team move from Chelsea!
The ball starts with Kepa, Werner breaks the line with a brilliant one-two before putting it on a plate for Romelu Lukaku pic.twitter.com/PxUQaq9F19— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 8, 2021
Lovren with a long diagonal pass to Claudinho, and his cross is turned behind by Saul for a Zenit corner. The delivery was poor, but the follow up cross was far more threatening and Kepa plunged to his left to produce a stunning save and keep out Azmoun’s header!
Christian Pulsic has been brought on by Tuchel, replacing Ross Barkley. A long-range Zenit shot deflects behind for a corner so Chelsea have some defending to do. Cleared, and on the counter Werner dallied before he could get his shot off. Hudson-Odoi has also been replaced by Hakim Ziyech.
Stray pass from James in midfield and Zenit have a throw. Chelsea rewarded for their first decent spell since the opening 10 minutes. It has been a topsy-turvy game for both teams.
GOAL! Lukaku is back among the goals
Lovely Chelseq equaliser. Werner exchanges passes with Barkley at the edge of the area and he squares from Lukaku after the sharp one-two. Lukaku was behind Werner when the ball was played so the goal right stands. Chelsea level and now need just one more goal.
Chelsea have Zenit penned in and are keeping the ball for the longest spell since that opening period. Saul’s cross is harmless from the left but Santos makes a hash of it and concedes a needless corner. It comes to nothing.
Better move from Chelsea but Lukaku tried to play a cute pass in the area for Werner when he could have shot. Saul does take the shot on from the left but Kerzhakov is equal to it.
Zenit attacking well again, this time Malcom cuts inside Christensen and forces a save from Kepa with a side-foot shot. The game is getting stretched and Chelsea counter themselves, but Barkley shoots straight at the goalkeeper from distance. Then Zenit play their way into trouble but James’ shot is closed down.
Sarr and Kepa play Chelsea out of trouble well, and they look to break at pace. Mount’s poked pass is deflected behind for a corner. Mostovoy has replaced the injured Wendel for Zenit. Corner defended and then Werner is halted at the edge of the box.
Chelsea controlling possession in the early minutes and Mount finds Hudson-Odoi in space but his cross was disappointing. Zenit have an injury problem with Wendel about to come off.
We’re back under way
Zenit get us going. No changes from Chelsea despite their defensive problems in the first half.
The consequence of eight changes?
Penny for Thomas Tuchel’s thoughts?
Chelsea concede two goals minutes apart to go behind against Zenit #UCL pic.twitter.com/9Lv51tFSkx— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 8, 2021
HT: Zenit 2 Chelsea 1
Thomas Tuchel’s team started so well but Zenit wrestled back control and have found it too easy to play through Chelsea. Kepa has placed three one-on-ones in 45 minutes; you rarely see Chelsea conceding chances of that quality. Chelsea need two goals in the second half to top the group, assuming Juventus win against Malmo. The Italians are leading 1-0.
Chelsea all of a sudden a bit of a mess defensively, and it took a strong hand from Kepa to deny Azmoun who once again breached their high line. Werner tries to lead a counter-charge but cannot get his shot off in time. Mount wins Chelsea a corner.
GOAL! Zenit lead thanks to Azmoun
Azmoun does what Malcom failed to do earlier when one-on-one with Kepa: he takes the ball around the Chelsea goalkeeper and rolls into the empty net. The goal stands after a brief Var check. Christensen played him onside. Chelsea have work to do now.
Chelsea need to rediscover the verve of the opening 10 minutes or so. Saul’s cross from the left is tame but it does earn Chelsea a corner.
GOAL! Zenit have their equaliser
The Russian side have been reward for a strong 15 minutes or so, and the warning sings were there for Chelsea. They fail to clear their lines, and from a second-phase cross by Santos, Claudinho ghosts into the six-yard box with a late run to nod home. Chelsea second in the group as things stand.
Azmoun bursts into the Chelsea penalty area and gets to the bar-line but his pull-back cannot find a Zenit player. The home team have a grip of the game now, and are keeping the ball quite comfortably in central midfield.
Fast reflexes from Kerzhakov to prevent Chelsea from doubling their lead. Lukaku curled in a lovely pass from the right-corner of the box to the back most and Mount got his studs to it, but was denied. Chelsea’s best attack from a while.
A new Chelsea record
The scorer of Chelsea’s fastest ever #UCL goal!
1 minute and 23 seconds pic.twitter.com/meZi0xCVji— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 8, 2021
Zenit weathered that early storm but have worked their way back into this match. Hudson-Odoi is penalised for a foul on halfway. Chelsea have indeed played in their usual 3-4-3 shape, with Lukaku largely on the right of the attack.
A huge chance is wasted by Malcom but credit Kepa for standing up and making a big one-on-one save! Claudinho’s turn in midfield opened Chelsea up, and there was so much space for him to play Malcom through on goal in the right channel. Then Azmoun sends a glancing header just over the bar. Much better from Zenit.
Lukaku tries to dribble his way into the penalty area but Zenit get a foot in before he can shoot. Threatening Zenit counter in response but Malcom’s shot from outside of the area deflects behind for a corner. Chelsea defend well again, not looking flustered.
Moise Kean has given Juventus the lead against Malmo, so it looks like Chelsea will need to retain this lead to top the group. Killing the game off with goals two and three is the better option, of course.
That was better from the home side, passing with greater fluency, but Claudinho elects to shoot from 25 yards when there were numbers in the box but he blazes well over the bar.
Azpilicueta defends well again in a wide area. Zenit look to have very little about them as an attacking force, they are struggling to piece together any sequences of play in Chelsea’s half.
Zenit win some territory for the first time in the match. Claudinho tried to float a cross in from the right towards Azmoun but Azpilicueta heads behind for a corner. Taken short, and Barrios’ long-range shot deflects of Sarr for another corner. Delivery is poor and comes to nothing.
Lukaku with some excellent hold-up play to clear space for Mount to lead the attack, but Saul at left-wing back overhits the cross into the area. Something of a surprise that Saul is playing out there with James in midfield.
Barrios plays Zenit into trouble in their own defensive third, and the ball deflects behind for another Chelsea corner. Has to be retaken after some pushing and shoving in the area, From the second phase, Lukaku got up at the back post and tried to head across when he could have gone for goal but the flag was up for offside.
Chelsea looking fluent again, Barkley tries to poke a through ball into the path of Werner with the outside of his foot but there was too much on it. Mount then finds space between the lines to spread play to Werner but Lovren headed his cross clear with Lukaku lurking.
Zenit looking a rabble defensively, it takes a last-ditch clearance to prevent Werner scoring another tap-in after Lukaku found space down the right. Bit of a subdued atmosphere in the stadium.
GOAL! Werner scores and Chelsea lead
Barkley swings in a threatening delivery with his right foot, it skimmed off a Zenit head at the near post and there was Werner on his toes to stab home from a yard out. The perfect start for Chelsea and Saul involved in the move which earned the corner.
Interesting tactical surprise from Tuchel with Reece James playing in central midfield alongside Saul with Hudson-Odoi at right-wing back. Bright start from Chelsea as Saul burst forward and pushes the ball into space, before Kerzhakov smothers in the Zenit goal. Chelsea corner.
Some boos in the stadium as players take the knee before Chelsea get us under way.
The players are on their way out
Sub-zero temperatures on the shores of the Gulf of Finland this evening.
How do Chelsea get more out of Lukaku?
“If you play to his strengths he’s a world-class centre-forward.”
Romelu Lukaku starts for Chelsea this evening @seemajaswal, @petercrouch and Joe Cole discuss what his return means for Blues going forward… pic.twitter.com/8n16mQ76jA— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) December 8, 2021
Tuchel on Kovacic missing out
“He was in training yesterday and with a big smile and it was a pure pleasure to have him back,” said Tuchel.Advertisement
“But he tested positive today, for coronavirus, so he’s quarantining for a few days.
“It’s a huge setback for him personally and for all of us.”
A start for Kepa in goal tonight
Mendy made arguably two errors in the defeat to West Ham at the weekend, but we should not read too much into this change from Tuchel. He has used this competition to get Chelsea’s reserve goalkeeper some minutes.
Juventus host Malmo this evening
Chelsea need to match their result in Turin, likely to be a victory, to finish top of the group.
Zenit team and subs
Starting XI: Kerzhakov, Karavaev, Lovren, Rakitskiy, Douglas Santos, Barrios, Malcom, Kuzyaev, Wendel, Claudinho, Azmoun
Subs: Krugovoy, Mostovoy, Sutormin, Erokhin, Dzyuba, Ozdoev, Kravtsov, Odoevskiy, Kuznetsov, Byazrov, Khotulev
Chelsea team news
Chelsea have made eight changes to their starting line-up to take on Zenit.
Andreas Christensen, Reece James and Mason Mount were the only three to start again following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham, with Romelu Lukaku in from the off up front.
It looks like a midfield three of Barkley, Saul and Mount with a front pair. More of a 3-5-2 rather than Chelsea’s usual 3-4-3.
Chelsea team and subs: Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner start together
Your Chelsea side tonight! @ParimatchGlobal | #ZenChepic.twitter.com/Ug1UhLgYWv— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 8, 2021
Chelsea short of midfield options on night to decide top spot in group
Chelsea travel to Zenit St Petersburg knowing they only have to match Juventus’ result to top their Champions League group but are struggling with a shortage of central midfielders.
The holders are without Mateo Kovacic due to a positive Covid test, N’Golo Kante due to a twisted knee and Jorginho due to back trouble. The trio are Thomas Tuchel’s first choice ‘double sixes’ in his 3-4-3 system, meaning Ruben Loftus-Cheek and on loan Saul Niguez could have to deputise, unless Mason Mount is deployed deeper.
Champions League holders Chelsea are already through to the knockout rounds, thumping Juventus 4-0 at Stamford Bridge last time out, but will want top spot in the group to increase their chances of a more friendly draw. Zenit gave them a tough game in the return fixture when a Romelu Lukaku goal was enough for a 1-0 win.
Blues boss Tuchel hailed 30-year-old Kante as the envy of the footballing world, and rejected any worries about his recent spate of minor injuries.Advertisement
“Me personally, I’m not so careful when to bring him back,” said Tuchel.
“It’s actually a very open relationship with him, he takes care about this and he needs his time. But we don’t have the feeling that it’s about age.
“He’s in general a careful person, he takes care about his body and does not want to take risks. And I agree he is the Superman, he is the guy who makes the difference, the guy everybody in the whole world wants to have in their midfield.
“And we miss him, for a long time. Can we produce results and top performances without N’Golo? Yeah we can, and we’ve proved it already.
“But it’s easier with him, and it’s easier if he does not lack for too many weeks. We built him up after his last injury, now we had an accident.
“This can happen, this is not related to age or to overload, this is simply an accident during a match and it happened against Juventus. But of course we miss him a lot.”