Chelsea’s Champions League group stage campaign ended with a disappointing 3-3 draw against Zenit. A brace from Timo Werner and a Romelu Lukaku goal wasn’t enough for the Blues as a late equaliser from Magomed Ozdoev prevented Tuchel’s men from topping Group H.
Thomas Tuchel made a total of eight changes from Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to West Ham. Kepa replaced Edouard Mendy in-between the sticks for his first appearance since October. Meanwhile, there was two changes in the back three as Cesar Azpilicueta and Malang Sarr came in for Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva.
In the centre of midfield, Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek made way for Saul and Ross Barkley while at left wing-back, Callum Hudson-Odoi started over Marcos Alonso. Finally, in attack, Timo Werner replaced Hakim Ziyech with Romelu Lukaku making his first start since the Malmo game in October.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s opponents, Zenit, started with a relatively similar eleven from their most recent game, a 2-2 draw with FC Rostov. Former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren started in defence over Dmitri Chistyakov whilst Aleksandr Yerokhin made way for Wilmar Barrios in midfield. The third and final change came up front as Sardar Azmoun replaced Russian goal machine Artem Dzyuba.
The away side had the game’s opening effort on goal in the first minute through Saul, whose effort was kept out by the goalkeeper. However, from the resulting corner, Chelsea broke the deadlock. Ross Barkley’s corner was headed on by Andreas Christensen towards Timo Werner, who prodded home from close range to give the Blues the lead.
Tuchel’s men continued to dominate the early stages in Russia but aside from the early goal, did very little to threaten Mikhail Kerzhakov in the Zenit goal. Meanwhile, up the other end, Zenit had created a couple of attempts on goals but none that forced Kepa into making a save. With 26 minutes played though, Zenit came close to levelling as Claudinho played through Malcom but Kepa was down to deny the Brazilian.
Shortly after, the Russian Premier League champions were close to scoring but forward Sardar Azmoun could only head wide of the target. However, Chelsea kept pushing for a second goal and almost came close to doing so. Werner broke away on the counter attack for the Blues, who found Lukaku out wide before the Belgian’s cross found Mason Mount but he was denied by the goalkeeper.
Zenit soon found themselves level seven minutes before the break to peg back the European Champions. Full-back Douglas Santos delivered the ball into the middle as Claudinho headed home. Three minutes later, the home side took the lead as Malcom played through Azmoun, who rounded Kepa before slotting into the back of the net to make it 2-1. The Russians led at the break in St Petersburg.
HT: Zenit 2-1 Chelsea
Eight minutes into the second half, Chelsea went in search of an equaliser but Barkley’s curling effort was easy for Kerzhakov. A few moments later, the Blues came close again but Saul’s shot was well kept out by the goalkeeper.
However, on 62 minutes, Chelsea found themselves on level terms and it was that man Romelu Lukaku. Barkley and Werner combined well as the German unselfishly squared the ball to Lukaku, who tapped into an empty net. It was now 2-2 and game on in Russia.
With 20 minutes to go, Zenit came close to re-taking the lead as Azmoun’s header was saved brilliantly by Kepa to keep the score at 2-2. As the match approached the closing stages, Kai Havertz played the ball to Werner but his attempt was blocked.
The Blues continued to go in search of a winning goal that would put them through as group winners. However, Christian Pulisic’s cross fell to Werner, whose header was caught by the goalkeeper. In the 85th minute though, Chelsea completed the comeback and it was thanks to that man Werner. After a well worked move, Pulisic slid the ball into the German, who slotted home.
Deep into added time though, Zenit equalised and in some style. The ball fell to Magomed Ozdoev as he struck a wonderful volley into the back of the net. The match ended 3-3 with the result meaning Chelsea had to settle for 2nd place in Group H.
FT: Zenit 3-3 Chelsea
Zenit (4-1-4-1): Kerzhakov (GK); Karavayev, Lovren, Rakitskiy, Santos; Barrios; Malcom, Kuzyayev, Wendel, Claudinho; Azmoun
Subbed on: Mostovoy (for Wendel, 51 mins), Krugovoy (for Rakitskiy, 66 mins), Dzyuba (for Azmoun, 79 mins), Erokhin (for Malcom, 79 mins), Ozdoev (for Kuzyaev, 79 mins)
Goals: Claudinho (38 mins), Azmoun (41 mins), Ozdoev (90+4 mins)
Chelsea (3-4-3): Kepa (GK); Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Sarr; Hudson-Odoi, Barkley, James, Saul; Mount, Werner, Lukaku
Subbed on: Pulisic (for Hudson-Odoi, 65 mins), Ziyech (for Barkley, 65 mins), Havertz (for Lukaku, 75 mins), Alonso (for Saul, 75 mins)
Goals: Werner (2 mins, 85 mins), Lukaku (62 mins)
Written and Edited by Matt North (@MattNorth_)