Last night, in Sweden, Chelsea had, following the 6-0 mauling handed out by Manchester City last weekend, the ideal chance to get the show back on the road with a convincing win, in the Europa League.
After all, our opponents in Sweden, Malmo, were in the midst of their winter break and were, how you might say, believed to be a little rusty due to their inactivity.
But, under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea, possession-wise, dominated but came away with a 2-1 win that leaves it all to play for in the second leg.
For the fixture, Sarri’s starting eleven perplexed many, with the news source the Telegraph, implying on the morning of the match that Sarri was expected to win the Europa League in order to keep his job, with the implication being that winning this second-rate competition might be the only way Chelsea can guarantee being in the Champions League next season, the starting eleven contained many of the faces that have, in recent weeks, underperformed.
Now whether Sarri’s reluctance to change is a trait that’ll never be changed or whether he was simply giving some a chance to redeem themselves, after those poor performances, only the Italian will know.
But, as usual, it was a case of possession, possession and more possession without looking that menacing. Chelsea moved the ball sideways, backwards and occasionally forward but only when the hosts had all eleven men behind the ball.
However, despite the apparent ineffectiveness of ‘Sarriball’ Chelsea did create a 2-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud.
Leading 2-0, Chelsea should have put the game to bed, but despite introducing Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante, quite why they were risked ahead of a crucial FA Cup match against Manchester United, this coming Monday, remains a mystery.
But, in true Chelsea style, Malmo were handed a lifeline late-on when defensive errors allowed Anders Christensen to give Malmo hope that they could pull off a shock in the second leg of a tie that is, despite Chelsea’s possession domination, up for grabs.
Nothing ever comes easy for Chelsea, at the moment, does it!
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