A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s home leg against Malmö FF.
Thursday evening saw Chelsea host Malmö FF in their second leg of the last 32 round in this season’s Europa League. The Blues had gained a narrow 2-1 victory in the first leg and so were looking for an oasis of comfort in the middle of a run of tough matches.
Maurizio Sarri was able to make multiple changes to his side, but in all honesty it would be hard to make a case for many of the players deserving to keep there places after recent performances.
Kepa Arrizabalaga had taken a knock and was replaced by Willy Caballero in goal and young Jamie Cumming on the bench. David Luiz, Marcos Alonso, Jorginho, Pedro, Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain were all replaced as well. However this did mean there was a starting place for Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The visitors once again pressed high and so Chelsea’s defenders and Kovacic, playing in the central defensive midfield role, were given precious little time on the ball. Add to that all the changes made to the line up, and once again Sarri’s footballing style meant plenty of possession but there was minimal threat on goal.
Starting with a winning score line, the hosts hardly seemed capable of increasing their lead. Then after about 52 minutes, it appeared that N’Golo Kante wanted to change the situation all by himself. The Frenchman went on marauding runs forward and took the match to the opposition.
This seemed to be the spark The Blues required. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring after one of Kante’s breathtaking charges forward. There was suddenly a different look about the match. Chelsea kept the pressure up and it finally paid further dividends. A second yellow card for Rasmus Bengtsson was followed by a delightful free kick from Ross Barkley.
Then as the visitors not only tired but also were finally losing their fight, up stepped Hudson-Odoi. The youngster drove purposefully in from the right before firing in a delightful shot.
It was a real crowd pleaser. As The Blues supporters near breaking point with their belief that Sarri is capable of leading their beloved team to greatness, the 18 year old is one of the key factors. The cheer following him not only finally making the starting line up, but also scoring a beautiful individual goal.
The result may not have changed anyone’s opinion regarding the Italian manager, but there were signs, especially late on that this team could turn a corner and either win a trophy or finish in the top 4.
With Sarri leading his team out in his first major cup final on Sunday,
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue