BATE Borisov 0-1 Chelsea: Giroud nets first club goal since May as Blues qualify for knockout stage
As Eden Hazard’s free-kick sailed over a sea of team-mates and harmlessly out of play, Maurizio Sarri finally flipped in the dugout. Fifty minutes had passed and in the dank surroundings of Barysaw, his side were producing the worst performance of his short reign as Chelsea manager.
Overcome by frustration, Sarri, who had suffered with a fever earlier in the day, flew into a temper tantrum on the touchline. He wagged his finger, stomped his feet and his invective flew out into the Belarus night. The specific target of his spleen may have been Hazard but it was crystal clear that Sarri was by now thoroughly fed up of his players’ collective showing.
Whether they took much notice we will never truly know but Sarri was at least appeased in the minute that followed. At last, Chelsea rose from their slumber.
Olivier Giroud was the hero in Belarus as Chelsea held on to a narrow win to qualify for the Europa League knockout stages
The downward header into the bottom corner was Giroud’s first club goal since May when he scored against Liverpool
Chelsea created few clear-cut chances in the mist of Belarus and team-mates knew the breakthrough from Giroud was crucial
Victory means Chelsea have now sealed comfortable progression to the last 32 and they still have two games left to play
The ball was worked wide to Emerson Palmieri, up from left-back, and the Brazilian crossed well for Olivier Giroud, who stole in front of his marker to head in at the near post.
For Giroud, it marked the end of a personal ordeal, as he scored his first Chelsea goal for 794 minutes – a run that stretched all the way back to May. For Chelsea, the relief was palpable. This victory ensured their qualification into the final 32 but Sarri had reason for irritation.
Chelsea have not been at their free-wheeling best in this competition, defeating both Videoton and PAOK Salonika each by a single goal but at times this was truly rotten on a night they were spared three times by the woodwork.
Eden Hazard completed just over an hour as he continues to get minutes in his legs as he recovers from a recent back injury
BATE largely contained and frustrated the Premier League side in the difficult conditions that flooded the Borisov Arena
Spanish winger Pedro looked one of Chelsea’s brightest sparks in a first half that saw Sarri’s side create few clear-cut chances
The long ball towards Giroud was a key part of the plan from a Chelsea perspective in the misty conditions on Thursday night
The conditions, it should be said, were not ideal. But Chelsea would have expected this. Nestled away in the Belorussian woodlands, the elements were never likely to be kind for a winter fixture in Barysaw. Yet the fog was particularly prohibitive on a bitingly cold evening and Chelsea did not seem up for a contest.
‘We didn’t play very well,’ Sarri said. ‘There were only conditions to play very badly – for the cold, the opponents, the pitch, for everything. But we could have done better.’
Sarri left Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Alvaro Morata at home but there was no shortage of star turns in the Chelsea line-up.
Yet even with Jorginho and Hazard starting, Chelsea’s play was sluggish and predictable. Sarri’s team did not record a shot on target in the first half and they deserved to be behind. Borisov enjoyed the closest sights of goal.
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
BATE Borisov (4-3-3): Scherbitski 6.5; Rios 6.5, Volkov 6, Filipenko 6, Filipovic 6.5; Baga 7, Dragun 7, Hleb 7 (Berezkin 81); Skavysh 6.5 (Moukam 76), Signevich 6.5 (Tuominen 73, 6), Stasevich 6
Subs not used: Chichkan, Yablonskiy, Ivanic, Polyakov.
Manager: Aleksei Baga 7
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa 7; Zappacosta 5.5, Cahill 6, Christensen 6, Emerson 7; Barkley 6, Jorginho 6, Loftus-Cheek 5.5 (Kovacic 64, 6); Pedro 5.5 (Hudson-Odoi 85), Giroud 7, Hazard 5.5 (Willian 62, 6)
Subs not used: Caballero, Kante, Azpilicueta, Ampadu.
Goals: Giroud (52)
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7
Referee: Nikola Dabanovic (Montenegro) 7
Chelsea manager Sarri was less than impressed with his side’s performance as he frantically scribbled down notes on his pad
Young goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was kept busy throughout the night and had to be at full stretch in his pink gloves
BATE’s players are left with in disbelief with their hands on their heads as Chelsea goalkeeper Arrizabalaga pulls off a fine save
A firecracker atmosphere nearly had the opening to ignite the home faithful further.
Dmitri Baga wound up and unleashed a searing strike that thundered off the post and from the resultant corner, an almighty melee saw goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga make a pointblank save.
Chelsea appeared startled that their hosts had the temerity to unsettle them. Borisov made only one change from the side that was 2-0 down inside eight minutes at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago but here they played with authority, discipline and bite.
Behind the goal, the Borisov ultras bounced along merrily, cheering every fierce tackle by their own players and cherishing every misplaced pass by the visitors.
The fog caused havoc for both teams’ passing as a number of balls from the two sets of midfielders continued to go astray
BATE are bottom of Group L but showed no sign of fear against group leaders and they looked to make home advantage count
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who scored a hat-trick against BATE at Stamford Bridge, struggled to find his rhythm before coming off
Hazard was the man everyone in the stadium had their eyes on and he received the physical treatment to be kept at bay
When the referee Nikola Dabanovic blew up for half-time with the scoreline goalless, the home crowd stood to applaud their players off the pitch.
The Belorussian champions have defeated Bayern Munich and Roma on this ground in recent years but nobody had predicted another upset here.
Chelsea scratched around for momentum. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Hazard were both irritated by the officials’ failure to award free-kicks, while Pedro overhit a pass on the counter-attack and Emerson was dispossessed deep inside his own half. It summed up a disjointed performance.
Willian came on to replace Hazard with an hour gone and he looked to use his energy and pace to add a second goal
In need of a goal, BATE pushed but they struggled bar a late scramble in the box that had Chelsea hearts in mouths
In a bid to create an intimidating atmosphere for Chelsea to walk into, the BATE supporters unveiled this incredible tifo design
Even after breaking the deadlock through Giroud, Chelsea treaded a perilously fine line. Stanislav Dragun’s long-distance shot was diverted by Nikolai Signevich and the deflection took the ball up against the underside of the crossbar.
Hazard then dozed off and full-back Aleksei Rios galloped onto an inviting loose ball but blazed over. Chelsea did briefly settled down and Giroud came close to a second with another fine header.
Yet Chelsea failed to kill the game and then endured a chaotic period of injury time, as Borisov goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski came up for two corners and the home side struck the post for the final time through substitute Evgeni Berezkin.