Pedro 8/10 in scoring vital away goal as Chelsea midfield excels in Frankfurt
FRANKFURT, Germany -- Chelsea took a significant step towards the Europa League final as Pedro's away goal earned them a 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in front of an intimidating Commerzbank Arena crowd, giving them the edge in the tie.
Chelsea showed plenty of quality as well as resilience to overcome a rocky start and Luka Jovic's goal to boss long stretches of this game, even without Eden Hazard from the start. Pedro's goal was the least they deserved, and Maurizio Sarri will be encouraged with how his players handled a hostile away day.
The visitors created and missed more than enough chances to book their place in Baku after 90 minutes, with Olivier Giroud, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Pedro all missing big chances in a dominant second half. Eintracht also exposed enough defensive frailties at the other end to be confident of scoring at Stamford Bridge.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Sarri made a bold choice to rest Hazard and it was largely vindicated, with his chosen starting XI settling well and performing with confidence away from home. The Belgian did not have the desired impact when he came off the bench, but overall this was a decent night for Chelsea's much-maligned head coach.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 -- Could do nothing about Jovic's clinical header, which crept in off the inside of his far post, and otherwise had little to do as Chelsea dominated the majority of open play. Generally distributed the ball well short and long, though he wasn't the most commanding in his box.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Had real trouble with Filip Kostic during Eintracht's fast start, and did not get close enough to the Serb to prevent the cross that found the head of Jovic. Gradually reasserted himself as Chelsea took control of the game and was solid enough thereafter.
DF Andreas Christensen, 5 -- Strangely seemed the most unsettled by playing in a hostile German stadium. Booked for a rash tackle on Sebastian Rode, he was then perhaps lucky not to be sent off when he pulled Mijat Gacinovic back after misjudging an aerial ball. Also allowed Jovic to peel away from him for the goal.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Did not help his team settle with a lax defensive free kick in the opening minutes, but grew into the game. Played some incisive passes out of defence and forced Kevin Trapp to tip his excellent dipping free kick onto the crossbar. Looked unconvincing defensively when isolated.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 5 -- Managed to worry Danny Da Costa with his frequent overlapping runs on the left, but defensively he never got to grips with his opposite number and many of Eintracht's most dangerous attacks came down his flank. Also gave up a free header to David Abraham at a corner.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Produced his usual all-action contribution on the right of the midfield three, picking the right times to dart forward, dropping in to help Jorginho whenever the situation required and winning the majority of his duels -- as long as they weren't in the air.
MF Jorginho, 8 -- Played a key role in stabilising Chelsea in possession after their shaky start and was excellent as they gradually pinned Eintracht in their own half for long spells, knitting together incisive passing moves and reacting quickly to aggressively nip potential counterattacks in the bud.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 8 -- Always looked Chelsea's best route to an away goal with his driving runs from midfield, which became more effective as Chelsea beat Eintracht's press more frequently. Showed good poise to find Pedro for the crucial away goal, though he lacked composure with his own chances.
FW Pedro, 8 -- Showed his intent by flashing a left-footed shot just wide of Trapp's near post in the first half and did what he does best on the stroke of half-time, working just enough space to fire into the far corner. His work rate was also valuable as Chelsea consistently beat their opponents to loose balls.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- Worryingly ineffective in the opening minutes with a number of uncharacteristically heavy touches. Once he found his rhythm, though, he caused real problems, providing his usual focal point for Chelsea's attack and pressing effectively, even if his finishing touch eluded him.
FW Willian, 5 -- Deployed on his favoured left side in the absence of Hazard, he had the beating of Da Costa just about whenever he wanted. His end product was poor though, whether shooting straight at Trapp or failing to find teammates with crosses. His set-piece deliveries also yielded nothing.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Surprisingly rested from the start by Sarri, his introduction in the second half unsettled the defenders in his proximity but did not yield the decisive second away goal that Sarri was looking for.
MF Mateo Kovacic, N/R -- Brought on for Loftus-Cheek with seven minutes left and the change coincided with Eintracht's final flurry. He was OK in possession but unsurprisingly didn't offer the same attacking threat as the man he replaced.