It is four wins out of four in the Europa League and our place in the Round of 32 in February is assured.
Olivier Giroud’s first Chelsea goal since his winner against Liverpool back in May made the difference. From Emerson Palmieri’s cross it was a trademark header from the World Cup winner who broke the deadlock early in second period. BATE Borisov had their chances tonight and hit the woodwork no less than three times, with wastefulness costing the Belarus champions dear as they continued their poor run of results at home in European competition.
In a foggy first half in Eastern Europe, Chelsea’s play lacked a little of our usual passing precision and tempo. As a result, goalmouth action was limited and it was the home side who went closer to scoring, with an effort from long-range that cannoned back off an upright.
We looked best when Hazard came deep and injected pace into the proceedings, but from outside of the penalty area, it was harder for him to create any clear chances on goal.
There were some similarities to the first in the pattern of the second half but scoring early in it took tension out of the occasion for the visitors although we had two major escapes having gone ahead, one right at the death. The result ensures it will be a satisfied plane-load going back to London tonight.
We have had to wait for the Frenchman to add a goal to his impressive centre-forward play this season but when it came, it was one of importance. His aerial strength was clear to see tonight with an earlier header going close and another after he had scored well-saved. With Alvaro Morata regularly finding the net and Olivier now up and running for the season, it is looking healthy for Maurizio Sarri at the focal point of his attack.
More minutes for Eden
Having come on during the second half of the weekend win over Crystal Palace, there was just over an hour from the off for the Belgian this evening, and he showed no signs of his recent back trouble. Maybe a full game awaits him at the weekend?
State of the group
Although we are guaranteed a place in the top two in Group L, Vidi’s home win over PAOK means we cannot claim top spot quite yet. That might be done at the end of the month when we host the Greek side.
The defence was the same as the one which contested the 3-1 win against BATE a fortnight ago but there were three changes further ahead. With Cesc Fabregas ill and back in London, Jorginho was in his usual position and Ross Barkley was preferred to Mateo Kovacic. Hazard was given his first start since his recent back injury with Willian the wide player from the first meeting to make way.
5 mins – The Blues attacked with menace for the first time. Hazard got the move going, Pedro had a shot blocked and Barkley’s follow-up effort was deflected over.
12 – A let-off when Dmitri Baga lined up a shot from outside the area and hit the post. From a corner that followed moments later, there was an almighty goalmouth scramble but we survived.
18 – Giroud controlled a pass up to him well and went for the target, but a defender diverted the ball behind for a corner.
41 – The closest we came to an effort on goal for some time was the result of sharp, close interplay between Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Giroud. BATE defended it well. From the corner, Giroud flicked a header towards the target, it went fairly close, but the wrong side of the post.
52 GOAL! A very nice cross and a very nice near-post header! It was Emerson advanced on the left who curled a ball with pace into the right spot and Giroud angled it inside the near post leaving the goalie grasping at air. 1-0.
58 - BATE were again the width of the woodwork away from scoring. This time Nikolai Signevich stuck out a leg to reach Stanislav Dragun’s miscued shot and diverted it onto the crossbar.
60 - Surely as hard to miss as to score! Aleksei Rios, running onto a ball pulled back into space in the Chelsea area somehow managed to blast it over.
63 - Giroud’s powerful header from a corner was tipped over by the keeper.
83 – We could have wrapped it up from a crisp counter-attack but Pedro’s pass out to substitute Willian gave the goalie the chance to get there first.
90+3 - From distance again and with nearly the last kick of the game, BATE rattled the post. This time Evgeni Berezkin was the unlucky one.
The Premier League serves up a Sunday lunchtime helping at Stamford Bridge when in-form Everton (who can’t play Kurt Zouma in their side for this game) are in town. But Chelsea are in form too!