Pulisic scores, Chelsea pops Krasnodar

Krasnodar - Chelsea
Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Krasnodar – Chelsea: Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, and Christian Pulisic got Chelsea in the win column with a 4-0 defeat of Krasnodar at Krasnodar Stadium on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

USMNT winger Christian Pulisic was a 71st-minute sub for Chelsea and won a controversial penalty with a shot that deflected off a hand and set-up Werner’s spot kick.

[ UCL: Full lineups, stats, box scores ]

The Blues’ four points will be enough for at least a share of the Group E lead as Sevilla and Stade Rennais enter their 4 pm ET kickoff in Spain on a point a piece.

Krasnodar – Chelsea saw a bright sub’s cameo from Christian Pulisic and plenty more as Chelsea kept a third-straight clean sheet ahead of a Saturday trip to Burnley.

Three things we learned from Krasnodar – Chelsea

1. Bounces go both ways: Having drawn at home to Sevilla, Chelsea knew that it’s second match — while no cakewalk — would be more likely to produce a win. And Timo Werner’s early drawn penalty only seemed to confirm that, what with automatic Jorginho on the spot. When he hit the post, then the keeper, and the ball still didn’t cross the line? Well, it started to feel a bit like Krasnodar’s early chances might’ve been a real threat but credit to Chelsea for keeping their ears pinned back and getting good bounce 20 minutes later.

2. Goal could kickstart CHO’s season: Callum Hudson-Odoi has gone from Bayern Munich and Chelsea tug-of-war to fourth- or fifth-string wing with Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, and Mason Mount in front of him and both midfielder Kai Havertz and center forward Timo Werner getting time out wide.

3. Mendy in his groove: Chelsea’s new goalkeeper had already shown himself capable of shot-stopping but there have been questions about his distribution. That was not an issue on Wednesday, where he passed at over 80 percent and connected on more than half of his long balls.

Man of the Match

Could be any number of players. We’ll tab Ziyech but it could go to Hudson-Odoi for the opener. Havertz was lively and had an assist while Mateo Kovacic was solid in the midfield and Antonio Rudiger showed little rust in getting a rare start in front of still-impressing Mendy. Ziyech completed five-of-five long passes and put four shots on target.

Pulisic Watch

71′ — Subs on for an injured Hudson-Odoi, a day of rest ended.

75′ — Wins a penalty with a close-range shot that hits a Krasnodar player’s stomach and then arm. Inexplicably, VAR does not overrule the call and Werner smashes home for 2-0.

79′ — Zips down the wing and gets the ball to Werner, who assists Ziyech’s first Chelsea goal.

80′ — Mostly whiffs on a bicycle kick bid, the confidence not a problem.

84′ — A funny bounce prohibits Pulisic from lashing a Mason Mount pass on goal first time, and he can only turn and manufacture a quarter-chance.

90′ — Put Christian on the board. The 22-year-old takes a pass from Tammy Abraham in the right side of the box and beats Safonov to the near post from a tight-angle. It’s his 12th Chelsea goal and fourth in his Champions League career.

Krasnodar – Chelsea recap

Daniil Utkin nearly boosted the hosts into a fourth-minute lead but Edouard Mendy got to full stretch and slapped the 19-yard shot wide of the goal.

Hakim Ziyech had the Blues first chance, cutting into the box and forcing a near-post save out of Matvey Safonov.

Timo Werner drew a 14th-minute penalty, but Jorginho’s low effort hit the inside of the post then the back of Safonov before the danger was cleared to keep the match scoreless.

Mendy could only look helplessly to his left when Tonny Vilhena’s shot took a massive turn off Kurt Zouma but bounded wide of the goal. Cristian Ramirez then saw a deflected shot go to Mendy.

But as much as the penalty was a bad double bounce, Chelsea got some love when Safonov made a meal of Hudson-Odoi’s bouncing shot through traffic. Kai Havertz picked up the assist.

Krasnodar nearly leveled the score off a corner kick, Yuri Gazinskiy snapping a volley off the bar.

Ziyech’s fancy foot work put his defender off balance and forced Safonov into a low save before Chelsea opened the floodgates.

Follow @NicholasMendola