Olivier Giroud returned to action for Chelsea and was back among the goals as his opener proved to be the winner in a narrow Europa League win over BATE Borisov.
It was a completely different BATE Borisov that took to the pitch on Thursday on their home ground. With Eden Hazard returning and a strong lineup to boot, Chelsea were expected to repeat, if not improve, on their scoreline from their earlier meeting at Stamford Bridge.
But, it was BATE Borisov who set the pace throughout the match, troubling Chelsea at every opportunity. They hit the bar a couple of times and grazed the netting a few times as well. Olivier Giroud’s movement and aerial ability was the difference on the day, with Emerson finding the Frenchman’s head in the box. Giroud steered it into the back of the net, despite hitting it near the BATE Borisov keeper.
Maurizio Sarri will consider his Chelsea side lucky to have come out of the game with three more points to add to their Europa League Group Stage tally. We take a look at how the individuals fared.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – 6.5
Was on his toes for major portions of the game, especially towards the frenzied end of the match. Kepa was left rooted to his spot a couple of times but it was just one of those days when the ball did not want to go into the back of the net for BATE Borisov. Lucky to have recorded a clean sheet on Thursday.
Davide Zappacosta – 5.5
Much has been made of Zappacosta’s performances, with the Italian impressing in each of his recent outings. But, on Thursday, his attacking game was nowhere to be seen. He was hardly spotted in the final third, let alone crossing the ball for teammates. A very unusual and uncanny Zappacosta display.
Gary Cahill – 6
As anonymous as Zappacosta, Cahill just couldn’t contribute much to either side of the game. Was a non-factor in set-pieces and could not provide much resistance to BATE Borisov players, who were constantly threatening the Chelsea goal. Dodgy display from the veteran.
Andreas Christensen – 7
If it was not for Christensen, we might have seen BATE Borisov be even more dominant. The towering Dane made the most of his height advantage, sweeping away the danger from incoming aerial deliveries. Had the most headers won in the game (9) by a long margin. Was instrumental to Chelsea’s clean sheet.
Emerson Palmieri – 7.5
While one cannot notice much poise in Emerson’s defensive game, his contribution was massive towards the Chelsea win. He was a constant connoisseur of when to go forward or draw foul(s) from the opposition. Also made the most telling contribution with his cross finding Giroud in the box to head home the winner and the only goal of the game. Spirited performance.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6.5
Tried to get into good positions but was not even close to the finishing prowess he showed at Stamford Bridge. Almost clutching at straws. Seemed to be trying too hard to impress the manager or make an impact. The second outing in a row where he has disappointed.
Jorginho – 8
The complete package in midfield. Jorginho perhaps, was the actual reason Chelsea won the game. While his contribution was not easily visible to the naked eye, the Italian had the most tackles in the game (6), the highest number of interceptions of any player on the pitch (5) while being the joint-highest for Chelsea as far as clearances are concerned (4).
If this was not enough, Jorginho had 152 touches and made 116 accurate passes, the most of any player on the pitch. The Italian came close to scoring in what was a long range effort that fizzled out quickly. Still, performances like these show just how clinical Jorginho’s arrival has been for Chelsea.
Ross Barkley – 7
The English international resumed his road to redemption with another decent outing on Thursday. Always looked to venture forward at every given opportunity. Came more into life after he was given freedom to go forward more and more as Eden Hazard was brought off by Maurizio Sarri.
Pedro – 5.5
Cannot quite gauge Pedro’s performances nowadays. While he is always working hard to retain and regain control of the ball for Chelsea, sometimes he just phases out of the game it seems. Thursday was a case of the same for the Spaniard, whose major contributions came in the form of set-piece delivery.
Almost had a 3-on-1 situation in front of the penalty box but his pass was too short. Poor.
Olivier Giroud – 8
Giroud will be glad to get the monkey off his back and score his first goal under Maurizio Sarri. The Frenchman has been part of the forward line problem for the manager. But, it seems both the Chelsea forwards are coming back to form in good time. Was constantly prodding at the BATE Borisov defence.
His movement caused disruption and he used it to get into a good position to score the only goal of the game. Could have had another but his header from the corner was saved brilliantly by Scherbitskiy.
Eden Hazard – 6.5
Ratings can often be based on statistics alone. If we were to look at statistics alone, Eden Hazard would have had a fabulous performance. After all, he did complete SEVEN dribbles in just about an hour’s time on the pitch. But, anyone who would have watched the match would be able to gauge just how useful those dribbles were for Chelsea.
Hazard seemed quiet and did not contribute much to the game at all. He did attempt a couple of shots at goal but they were straight at the goalkeeper. Lacked his usual swagger. But, he needed to get minutes under his belt to regain match fitness. Nothing too spectacular from Hazard.
Willian – 6
Willian was brought on at a time when BATE Borisov were on a mission to find the equaliser. Did not do much of note. Decent.
Mateo Kovacic – 6.5
Had this been a game of larger significance or had Giroud failed to score, we could have seen Kovacic being brought on earlier for Loftus-Cheek. Kovacic was lively and looked to venture forward despite BATE Borisov’s attacking nature.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – N/A
Sarri brought the youngster on in the last five minutes of regulation time for Pedro, perhaps just to get a fresher pair of legs on the pitch in case any counter attacking opportunity developed.