Olivier Giroud proved the match winner on a difficult night for Chelsea in Belarus. The Frenchman headed home an Emerson Palmieri cross after 52 minutes to help The Blues clinch a 1-0 victory against BATE Borisov.
Chelsea Make Europa League Progress – A Difficult Night In Belarus
BATE had started the brighter and went close early on, catching Chelsea cold in the first minute. Dimitri Braga saw his long-range effort strike the post with Kepa Arrizabalaga looking beaten.
Maurizio Sarri’s much-changed side started to settle but found BATE’s stubborn defence hard to break down. Giroud went close with a header, but overall Chelsea looked lacklustre, despite a lions share of possession.
All too often, the Blues looked lost for ideas of how to break down their hosts. On too many occasions the final ball was poor, Maurizio Sarri cut a frustrated figure on the touchline. This wasn’t the ‘Sarriball’ that has been evident this season.
A First Half To Forget
Things had to improve as the Blues trudged off at a fog-covered Borisov Stadium at half-time. The second half started in a similar vein, but finally, with 52 minutes on the clock, the deadlock was broken.
Emerson Palmieri found some space down the left wing, before delivering an excellent cross for Giroud to head home a much needed goal, not only in the context of this game, but for himself on a personal level. It was the first time the 32-year-old had netted this season and ended a goal drought that had stretched 794 minutes.
Now Chelsea had the opportunity to settle down and with high hopes of convincingly finishing BATE off. Instead, the game became a more entertaining affair than it had up to that point.
Ross Barkley and Giroud both went close for the visitors, whilst Signivich saw an effort rattle the crossbar. With the clock ticking Chelsea were looking more comfortable until late drama almost led to an equalizer.
Deep into injury time, Berezkin saw his effort strike the post, the third time BATE had seen an effort strike the woodwork. Chelsea were relieved as they heard the final whistle moments later.
Chelsea will be relieved to have come away with the three points. They rode their luck at times, but first and foremost they have clinched qualification to the knockout stages. Maurizio Sarri will now have the chance to rest key players in the remaining two fixtures.