Chelsea qualified for the next stage of the UEFA Europa League, as they beat Swedish outfit Malmo FF 3-0 in the second leg of their Round of 32 tie on Thursday.
Having come into the game with a 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Sweden last week, Chelsea did not start off on the best of notes as Malmo took the game to them early on and carved out a couple of promising opportunities as well. But, they failed to make them count, as the Blues slowly worked their way back into the game.
Ross Barkley drew a straightforward save from the opposition keeper, while Cesar Azpilicueta saw a scuffed effort easily stopped as well, as both teams went into the half-time break on level terms. Ten minutes after the restart, Chelsea effectively killed off the tie as Olivier Giroud made it 1-0 with a simple tap-in, after some solid work by N’Golo Kante and Willian.
Malmo were reduced to ten men in the 73rd minute as Rasmus Bengtsson was sent off for a second bookable offence. Barkley stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and made it 2-0 with a stunning hit. Ten minutes later, academy graduate Callum Hudson-Odoi added the third for Chelsea with a well-taken strike.
Three second half goals and through to the next round! ?#CHEMAL pic.twitter.com/f5sROcRvQ1
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 21, 2019
After the disappointment of the FA Cup exit against Manchester United, Chelsea bounced back strongly and sealed qualification to the Round of 16 of the Europa League. And here’s how Maurizio Sarri’s men fared on the night against the Swedes.
Willy Caballero: 6/10
Handed a rare start in the European competition owing to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s hamstring injury, the Argentine had very little to do on Thursday night. Not worked a great deal by Malmo despite their strong start to the first-half, things only got easier for him after the break as Chelsea started to dominate.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6/10
The Chelsea captain put in the hard yards in typical fashion, always willing to run forward and join up in attack, although his end product wasn’t always up to the mark. Had a tame effort saved in the first-half. Defended solidly for the most part before being substituted for Ethan Ampadu.
Antonio Rudiger: 6/10
Retained in the starting XI, the German international started off looking very nervy and was easily turned over by Marcus Rosenberg leading to a chance for Malmo early on. Grew into the game with time and was alert to whatever little threat the visitors conjured up after the break as Chelsea started to control the game.
Andreas Christensen: 6/10
The Danish centre-half was handed a start in place of David Luiz at the back on Thursday night. Much like his defensive partner, Christensen too began a little scratchy and didn’t always look comfortable dealing with Rosenberg, but things improved for the academy graduate as he went on to have a steady game.
Emerson Palmieri: 7/10
Another of the seven changes made by Sarri saw Emerson Palmieri replace Marcos Alonso at left-back and the Italian took his opportunity with both hands. Was steady, solid and reliable in defence throughout, while offering a constant outlet in attack. Linked up well with Willian and won the free-kick leading to Chelsea’s second. Based on the evidence, he should start against City on Sunday.
Mateo Kovacic: 5.5/10
Moving into the holding midfield role in the absence of Jorginho, the Croat looked hardly convincing as he constantly gave away the ball in dangerous positions early on. Did seem to get a grip on the game as time wore on, but was too slow in moving the ball, while not shielding his back four all that effectively.
N’Golo Kante: 7.5/10
Starting on the right-side of the midfield three once again despite Jorginho’s absence, Kante was up for the battle on the night as he constantly broke up attacks in the middle of the park and recycled possession effectively. Went on a brilliant surging run forward before finding Willian with a smart pass in the lead-up to the opener.
Ross Barkley: 7/10
Back into the starting XI after Monday night, the England international looked a bit overwhelmed early on with Malmo’s high-press and intensity, but got a foothold in the game with time. Had Chelsea’s first shot on target, which was saved easily by the visitors’ keeper, before eventually getting his goal with a delightful free-kick in the second period. Energetic and a willing runner.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 8/10
The star of the night for Chelsea. Handed a rare start by Sarri after having overlooked him completely against Manchester United, the 18-year-old staked a strong claim for more involvement with a lively performance. Hudson-Odoi looked the most likely to make things happen in the first period, with the backheel pass to Willian being a standout moment.
Took his goal really well, showing great touch, speed and finishing to make it 3-0. Hudson-Odoi ill surely have forced himself to Sarri’s plans for the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City after that performance.
Olivier Giroud: 6/10
Replacing Gonzalo Higuain as the lone frontman, the French World Cup winner wasn’t involved a great deal in the first-half, with chances not coming his way. Showed good instincts and awareness to be in the right position and hit home Willian’s cut-back for the opener – his sixth in Europe this season.
Coming into the starting lineup in place of the injured Pedro, the Brazilian posed a threat to the Malmo defence each time he was on the ball, putting his dribbling skills on display. Nice, low cross for Giroud’s opener, before he set Hudson-Odoi up with a brilliant cross-field pass. A good outing overall for Willian.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 6/10
Replaced Kante in the 76th minute to make his return from injury. Showed good energy and willingness to get involved in attack.
Came on for Barkley with a little under final fifteen minutes left, amid boos from the Chelsea fans. Added control in the middle of the park.
Ethan Ampadu: N/A
Thrown on for Azpilicueta for the final ten minutes or so.
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