Football Features

“He was the colossus in defence” – Winners and Losers as Zouma and Ziyech stand tall and lead Blues to big win

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:06, 28 October 2020 | Updated: 9:42, 30 March 2021

In a comfortable night of football, Chelsea cruised to a 0-4 win over FC Krasnodar in the Champions League.

Chelsea had to work their way into the game but after taking the lead never looked in any danger. Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Timo Werner

The electric German striker has endured a rough ride of things early in his Chelsea career. Despite his obvious quality, he’s not really shown his best form and had just the 3 goals in his 8 appearances prior to tonight.

Well now you can make that 4 in 9, as Werner stepped up take the dubious second penalty and when he had the chance he absolutely hammered the ball home. For a player who allegedly declined to take a penalty in Chelsea’s shootout defeat to Spurs in the EFL Cup, and in a match where Chelsea had already missed a spot-kick, the way he converted it was very impressive.

Loser: Matvey Safonov

When your side concedes a penalty 14 minutes into your first home game of the Champions League season, as a goalkeeper you know you can only emerge from the situation a hero. If the ball goes in, no one will blame you – but if you save it? Instant hero status.

Matey Safonov somehow found a third way, by getting wrongfooted by Jorginho’s penalty only for the ball to strike the post, rebound onto Safonov and bounce clear. The goalie ended up looking useless but lucky.

That useless part got magnified later where Safonov confirmed himself a goalkeeper uninterested in heroism when he let Callum Hudson-Odoi’s tame shot spill into the net off his hands.

It was such a soft shot but Safonov utterly failed to deal with it and allowed the Englishman to fire Chelsea into a lead they wouldn’t surrender. And the goalkeeper ended the night as he began it by letting Christian Pulisic fire the ball through his legs for Chelsea’s fourth goal.

Winner: Hakim Ziyech

The world has been waiting for Hakim Ziyech to make his first start for Chelsea and when he did… well it wasn’t quite the fireworks people had hoped for but it was was a solid display that was punctuated by a delightful goal.

Ziyech spent his time on the field trying to find his team-mates and figuring out their runs and where the ball needs to go. He often looked on his own wavelength, letting fly with a game-high 5 shots, but it was a potent wavelength and his gravity allowed Kai Havertz to become more create in the space he was then afforded.

Plus, yes, he scored a goal on his first start. Some nimble footwork and a decisive finish into the far corner of the net. The best is yet to come from Hakim Ziyech, but this was a good start.

Loser: VAR

Chelsea’s first penalty was a harsh decision but a fair one. The contact on the foul was minimal but it was there. Chelsea’s second penalty, however, was a nonsense decision. Christian Pulisic thundered the ball at Aleksandr Martynovich and the ball struck his thigh before ricocheting up onto his arm. It was an absurd award from the referee and VAR really should have overturned the call, but instead they stuck by the referee. What is VAR for if not exactly this situation?

Winner: Kurt Zouma

People have been praising Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy for turning Chelsea’s defensive form around without giving credit to the real man behind it all: Kurt Zouma. Chelsea’s French defender is perpetually underrated, with everyone who has played alongside him getting showered in praise whilst he toils away in virtual anonymity.

Tonight Zouma led Chelsea for touches (133), passes (120) and successful passes (111). He won 4/4 aerial duels and made a game-high 7 clearances. He was the colossus in defence, constantly rebuffing Krasnodar’s attacks and allowing Chelsea to cruise to a 0-4 victory. The Blues have now kept four straight clean sheets and Kurt Zouma has played 90 minutes every time.

Loser: Nike

“Blue is the colour, football is the game!” goes the old Chelsea song. And whilst you wouldn’t have thought Chelsea could wear blue on their away kit, Nike have had a real go at incorporating it – perhaps as a throwback to the old yellow and blue Autoglass classic from the late 90’s.

But instead of that what they’ve given us is some neon fever dream version of Crystal Palace. The Chelsea kit looks awful. It doesn’t look like a Chelsea shirt and perhaps even worse doesn’t even look like a good shirt. I guess, according to Nike: “ember glow and ultra maroon blue are the colours.”