N'Golo Kante brilliant in midfield, Callum Hudson-Odoi stars as Chelsea cruise past Malmo
LONDON -- Chelsea eased through to the Europa League round of 16 with a 3-0 victory over 10-man Malmo, with Olivier Giroud, Ross Barkley and Callum Hudson-Odoi scoring. The win was a welcome one, but Maurizio Sarri remains under significant pressure heading into the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.
Chelsea are into the Europa League round of 16 and Sarri got a response of sorts from his players after the Manchester United defeat -- albeit after an underwhelming first half. Giroud's and Barkley's goals will boost their confidence, while Stamford Bridge got to enjoy a few more sparkling Hudson-Odoi moments.
The first half was truly dire, as a visibly anxious Chelsea struggled to play around Malmo's high press and could not create anything of note. The second half was better, but there was little evidence here to worry City or any of the teams Sarri's men are likely to face in the Europa League's latter stages.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Sarri unsurprisingly stuck to his system, though he did at least give different personnel a try. He was rewarded by the performance of Hudson-Odoi in particular, though you suspect it will not help the 18-year-old's case for starting any game that truly matters anytime soon.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Willy Caballero, 6 -- Had very little to do even as Chelsea toiled in the first half. His distribution was OK and he commanded his area well.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Does not look comfortable playing risky passes around his own penalty area, and misplaced several straight out of play. Defended his position solidly enough, but doubts about his long-term viability in this system remain.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Had to scramble a couple of times to cover for the errors of teammates and did so with a minimum of fuss. Won the majority of his duels in the air and on the floor, and used the ball sensibly most of the time.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- Good in possession, though his more ambitious passes did not come off. Handled the physical threat of Markus Rosenberg well and even covered for Mateo Kovacic after an early error.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 7 -- Gets forward down the left much more convincingly than Marcos Alonso, though his crossing remains very erratic. Also produced the jinking surge that led to Barkley's free kick.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- If this season has proved anything, it's that the Frenchman's brilliance transcends positions or tactics. His burst through the middle of the pitch broke open the game and eased the nerves of Stamford Bridge -- not to mention his beleaguered head coach.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 5 -- Deployed in the Jorginho role he presented the ball to Marcus Antonsson early on and was lucky to get away with it. Grew into the game as Chelsea did, but still has some convincing to do in this position.
MF Ross Barkley, 7 -- Showed his ambition with a couple of shots early on and built on a mildly positive first half with a good second, curling in a beautiful free kick and firing in another that was flagged for offside.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 7 -- Does well whenever he plays. Got the home supporters on their feet with a couple of runs in the first half and made his mark in the final minutes, firing into the bottom corner to prompt more chants of his name.
FW Olivier Giroud, 7 -- Wasn't a constant goal threat but does all the little things to make his team tick. Linked well all evening, held the ball up with his physicality and attacked the penalty area well for his goal.
FW Willian, 8 -- Was much more dangerous once the game opened up in the second half, finding Giroud with a precise cross from the left and switching play nicely for Hudson-Odoi to score. He's always at his best when he is direct and aggressive.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N/R -- Brought on for fresh legs in his favoured midfield role for the final 15 minutes.
MF Jorginho, N/R -- Harshly booed by sections of Stamford Bridge when he replaced Barkley. He may be the symbol of "Sarriball," but he's just doing as he's instructed.
DF Ethan Ampadu, N/R -- Given a few minutes at right-back in place of Azpilicueta at the death.