Timo Werner had only just entered the fray when he offered a glimpse of that devastating turn of pace. The volume in the stands rose as the Chelsea forward kept running, driving past a slightly baffled Krasnodar defence, and for a brief moment it seemed that a stunning winning goal was on the cards.
Yet Werner’s shot drifted past the far post and a moment of rare drama on an uneventful night was over. The temperature dipped again and Chelsea contented themselves with a draw, proud to head into the last 16 of the Champions League with an unbeaten record and as winners of Group E.
At times it had the feel of a practice match. There was nothing on the line for either side, leaving Lampard free to shuffle the pack and make 10 changes to the team that beat Leeds in the league last Saturday, and in that context it was not a surprise to see Chelsea struggling for fluency for much of a slow-burn opening period. Aside from a few deft touches from Billy Gilmour in midfield, there was little intensity to Chelsea’s play during the early stages, allowing Krasnodar to settle into containment mode and launch a few dangerous attacks on the break.
The intrigue for the 2,000 fans allowed into Stamford Bridge was seeing how the two teenagers in Chelsea’s experimental line-up handled themselves on the European stage. In Gilmour’s case, he hardly looked like a player who was making his first start since suffering a knee injury in July. The 19-year-old midfielder was keen to make a positive impression, finding clever passing angles, always demanding the ball, twice showing conviction to try his luck from long range.
It was harder for Faustino Anjorin, who needed to be more decisive when he had opportunities to run at Igor Smolnikov on the left. All the same the 19-year-old winger caught the eye with his workrate after being handed his first start at senior level, tracking back at one stage to stop a winding run from Wanderson.
Assured of qualification into the Europa League, Krasnodar played with freedom at times. Realising that Chelsea’s second string was short of rhythm, they mustered the early threats, Vilhena volleying narrowly over from the edge of the area, Viktor Claesson jabbing wide after cutting in from the left.
It was not a surprise when the visitors went ahead after 24 minutes. A swift attack down the left caught Chelsea cold and the danger picked up when Claesson’s astute touch found the former Newcastle winger, Rémy Cabella, who danced into space before driving a low shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Making his first start since 17 October, Arrizabalaga looked pained to concede from Krasnodar’s first shot on target. But there was no point wallowing. Chelsea’s Spanish goalkeeper was simply beaten by a perfectly executed shot from Cabella and his teammates responded in the right way, immediately cancelling out Krasnodar’s advantage when Tammy Abraham spun past Kaio, whose clumsy foul on the striker allowed Jorginho to equalise from the spot.
Chelsea settled down, almost taking the lead when Abraham steered wide with only Yevgeni Gorodov to beat. Sharper passing and greater imagination forced Krasnodar to retreat at the start of the second half. Kai Havertz came alive on the right, drawing admiring sighs from the crowd with a backheel to Mateo Kovacic. The loose balls somehow always seemed to find Gilmour, who might have had an assist when he released Anjorin, whose shot was blocked.
With the atmosphere in the lower tier of the west stand growing, Chelsea continued to probe for openings. Jorginho crossed for Abraham, who glanced a header wide. Kovacic, never the most reliable of finishers, volleyed over after drifting into space. The crowd wanted more from Havertz, encouraging the forward to shoot from the edge of the area. Yet it was not quite clicking for the £62m German, who needs time to build his fitness after recovering from Covid-19. Havertz scuffed his shot and went on to misplace a few too many easy passes.
Sloppiness threatened to hurt Chelsea when they found themselves outnumbered at the back as Krasnodar launched an increasingly rare break.
This time, though, Arrizabalaga came to their rescue, repelling Wanderson’s effort. Gorodov denied Havertz after excellent work from Anjorin. Werner almost had the final say; it was not to be.