Xenia Sports – London
Jorginho’s penalty salvaged second-string Chelsea a 1-1 draw with Krasnodar in Tuesday’s dead rubber Champions League clash.
Remy Cabella put Krasnodar into the lead at Stamford Bridge, in the final Group E clash that could have no effect on pool standings.
Chelsea hit back without delay though, with Jorginho converting from the spot after Tammy Abraham drew a foul in the box.
Italy midfielder Jorginho held his nerve to slot home his first penalty since missing in the 4-0 win in Krasnodar, in a failure that cost him Chelsea’s main spot-kick duties.
Timo Werner had blasted a late penalty in Russia on October 28 to show Jorginho how it is done, before assuming top spot-kick billing for the Blues.
A much-changed Chelsea laboured throughout a low-key contest with Krasnodar this time around though, with Jorginho’s penalty redemption one of few highlights.
Ultimately the Blues will move on undeterred, with immediate Premier League trips to Everton and Wolves holding far greater significance – and a last-16 Champions League tie to look forward in the new year.
Boss Frank Lampard has repeatedly warned his Chelsea squad they cannot “flick the switch” off and on when it comes to delivering top performances.
However extensive the rotation proves across this hectic festive schedule, Lampard has demanded minimum standards from his players.
This was perhaps the first time that his men failed to meet those requirements – but if there were ever any time to fall short, this was it.
Billy Gilmour impressed, typically mixing tidiness with attacking threat from midfield, while 19-year-old full debutant Tino Anjorin showed encouraging progress.
Chelsea started slowly, especially without the ball.
Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen appeared sluggish, causing problems for their full-backs when Krasnodar attacked at speed.
Viktor Claesson whipped an effort wide when afforded far too much time and space in the box, which yielded a major reprieve for the hosts and that tentative defence.
The Blues failed to heed the lesson though, and Cabella took full advantage.
The former Newcastle midfielder drilled low into the net from another situation where the home defence stood off and watched.
First Christensen left Cesar Azpilicueta exposed down the flank by sitting too deep and narrow, and then the Denmark defender failed to close down Cabella in the box.
The result was the Krasnodar lead, and one that Chelsea could hardly argue against at that point.
The Blues’ sole saving grace of a lacklustre half proved their immediate riposte, as Abraham won a penalty having been fed in the box by Mateo Kovacic.
Jorginho stepped up to the spot with a point to prove, perhaps as much to himself as anyone else.
The Italy midfielder stuck to his trademark skipped run-up, and duly wrong-footed the goalkeeper.
While he doubtless expected to score, the relief was palpable as he puffed out his cheeks and pumped his fist.
The match was always likely to meander, but the next incident of note did not come until after the hour mark.
Cristian Ramirez gifted Abraham the ball in the Krasnodar six-yard box and – while the Chelsea striker was already picturing his goal – Evgeni Gorodov had entirely the opposite idea.
The Krasnodar goalkeeper conjured a fine point-blank block, leaving Abraham perplexed on a golden chance missed.
Kai Havertz should have scored too, just minutes later, when played in by debutant Anjorin. But the German’s sticky patch had continued here, and a heavy touch allowed Gorodov to recover.
By this point Lampard had seen enough, and called for the cavalry for the final 15 minutes.
Off came Kovacic and Havertz, with N’Golo Kante and Werner sent into action in search of a winner.
Immediately Kante dinked a delicious ball into the box, only for Abraham to fail to meet the cross.
No breakthrough could be found however, leaving the Blues frustrated with the draw but still delighted to be heading into the knockout stages.