At the start of the Champions League group stage, the only Russian participant in the tournament, Zenit, played a very good match in London against the most formidable opponent from his quartet H – the winner of the previous draw of the Chelsea tournament. Throughout the first half, he did not allow the English grandee to create at least something sharp at their goal, and the only goal – from Romelu Lukaku – conceded only in the middle of the second half of the game, losing with a score of 0: 1.
Some people who are not too worried about either Chelsea or Zenit, watching the first half of the London game, could probably doze off. Monotony – this, apparently, was its ideal characteristic. And it should be considered an unconditional achievement of the St. Petersburg club. It is unlikely that Chelsea himself wanted to play this way – rolling the ball mostly in the middle of the field, with no prospects of dragging it inside the penalty area, not for show, but for sharpness. But what to do – forced the opponent, terribly correct and tightly positioned, not hugging the goal and putting up the most reliable breakwater on the approaches to them in the face of the “coronavirus” removal, which threatened many South Americans, who was pushed back from the usual position, who escaped with the Brazilians Malcolm and Claudinha. the defensive midfielder back to the center of defense.
This neat and focused Zenith tormented Chelsea in ways few people do. And London’s torment, for example, was perfectly seen by the famous former English defender Lee Dixon, who was commenting on the match for the BBC. In his opinion, the Chelsea players – all celebrities who shone in the previous Champions League, at the summer European championship – even looked a little annoyed: well, not exactly how they imagined the start of the hunt for a new title.
Something bad in Zenit’s actions appeared only about half an hour after the start of the match. Before this, there were practically no unnecessary losses of the ball, now they suddenly started. Including ridiculous ones – as in the episode when the St. Petersburg newcomer Claudinho, on whom a serious bet is probably being made, suddenly, in the area of the central circle, gave a dude pass with his heel to nowhere. And along with the losses came the London attacks. And now Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea’s fearsome scorer, who had been silent for a long time, was finally in full view.
But the unpleasant segment lasted no more than five minutes. And then the game returned to the previous mode, which was probably already sick of the stands at Stamford Bridge. Moreover, “Zenith” not only fought back, but at least tried to bite, and Yaroslav Rakitskiy once struck a very good shot on goal Eduard Mendy. Chelsea have not had such attacks.
And before the break, the TV crews were happy to aim their cameras at the owners’ coach Thomas Tuchel. He seemed like a man who is pissed off by everything that happens.
But interesting and funny things were ahead in this match, because in the second half Chelsea came out, of course, angry and in a mood to break the rhythm convenient for Zenit by all means. Zenit goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk, who was resting before the break, entered the game immediately – when, albeit slightly, Hakim Ziyech shot into the corner. And soon Antonio Rüdiger, a pillar of the London defense, as if tired of the helplessness of his partners in charge of the attack, grabbed the ball near his own penalty area and dragged it to the stranger’s. And here even the impeccable Barrios did not help – the rhino Rudiger was not going to pay attention to the obstacles that were arising, no matter how strong they were. This time Kritsyuk was lucky – the German fired near the counter.
Meanwhile, Zenit showed that it was generally ready for such a scenario. Well, yes, the enemy added, but after all, his activity has a downside – in the rear it becomes freer. The nimble Serdar Azmun almost took advantage of his freedom. And in this episode, Rudiger flashed, stopping the St. Petersburg striker.
Chelsea, who had to replace Ziyech with Kai Havertz, still got what they wanted. The simplest of the methods, which allowed, presumably, just jumped up the degree of aggressiveness, a little upset, shook the no longer reinforced concrete defensive formations of Zenit. Cesar Azilicueta, without inventing anything, hung the ball into the penalty area, and there, wiping off the broad shoulders of the guardians, Lukaku soared into the air. His headbutt was perfect.
To rectify the situation, Sergei Semak released, of course, Artyom Dziuba, who had sat on the bench. And he really, shortly after his release, almost equalized the score, reaching for Azmun’s lumbago. The ball, however, missed the goal slightly, and Stamford Bridge breathed a sigh of relief – the trouble was nearby. Chelsea eventually brought this not their best match to victory.
The next meeting in the Champions League “Zenith” will hold in two weeks with a much weaker opponent than the London club. In the second round, he plays host to Swedish Malmo, which on Tuesday lost to Juventus with no options – 0: 3.