Chelsea booked their place in the next round of the Europa League after securing a 5-1 aggregate win over Swedish giants Malmö FF.
The Blues took a 2-1 lead back to Stamford Bridge and despite a nervy first half, Olivier Giroud’s strike after the break helped put the rubber stamp on Chelsea’s progression into the knockout stages of the Europa League.
The Frenchman was unmarked in the penalty area to poke home Willian’s ball across the six-yard box, where the Brazilian found himself in space after N’Golo Kanté’s stunning work to start a counter-attack for the hosts.
Ross Barkley had the ball in the back of the net soon after but his goal was rightly ruled out for offside, not that it mattered, as he saw his name go up in lights with a stunning free kick in the aftermath of Rasmus Bengtsson’s red card.
Star man Callum Hudson-Odoi then put the icing on the cake with a powerful finish across goalkeeper Johan Dahlin, ensuring Chelsea’s place the next round of the Europa League ahead of the last 16 draw on Friday.
Key Talking Point
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Chelsea were the away team at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
The Blues are deprived of confidence and it stuck out like a sore thumb against Uwe Rösler’s Malmö. Chelsea were slow out the blocks and things didn’t improve as the first half went on, failing to commit players in attack and making rookie errors in the defensive third of the pitch.
In the second half, a moment of individual brilliance from N’Golo Kanté to set up the opening goal helped settle Chelsea’s nerves, while goals for Barkley and Hudson-Odoi were the icing on the cake.
Sarri’s side still look like a shadow of themselves at the start of the season, and fans will hope that Thursday’s seemingly comfortable win doesn’t just paper over the obvious cracks at Stamford Bridge.
Fortunately, Chelsea aren’t in a rush to get their mojo back any time soon, it’s not like they’re playing the Premier League champions in a cup final this weekend…oh wait.
Caballero (6), Azpilicuta (5), Rüdiger (6), Christensen (6), Emerson (7); Kanté (8), Kovačić (4), Barkley (7); Willian (8), Giroud (7), Hudson-Odoi (9).
Substitutes: Loftus-Cheek (7), Jorginho (6), Ampadu (6).
STAR MAN – Callum Hudson-Odoi
It took teenager Callum Huson-Odoi a while to get into the game on Thursday but, along with Willian on the other side of the pitch, the England Under-19 international was Chelsea’s only constant threat in attacking areas.
Striker Olivier Giroud had very little support from the midfielders at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea’s wingers had to make up for it, something which they largely did.
Hudson-Odoi had veteran defender Behrang Safari on toast throughout the match and even got his name on the scoresheet late on, with his overall performance doing nothing to harm his chances of breaking into Maurizio Sarri’s first team on a permanent basis this season.
Dahlin (6), Vindheim (6), Nielsen (6), Bengtsson (3), Safari (4), Rieks (7); Christiansen (7), Bachirou (6), Traustason (6); Rosenberg (6), Antonsson (7).
Substitutes: Strandberg (5), Gall (6), Lewicki (6).
Chelsea only have a few days rest before they go toe-to-toe with Manchester City to fight for the first piece of silverware this season, the Carabao Cup.
But they’ll first be keeping an eye on the Europa League draw on Friday, having booked their place in the Last 16 alongside the likes of Arsenal, Valencia and Sarri’s former side S.S.C. Napoli.