Chelsea's Barkley, Giroud are best of bunch in Europa League win over Malmo
Chelsea responded to humiliation at the hands of Manchester City by earning a 2-1 win over Swedish giants Malmo in the first leg of their Europa League round-of-32 tie, with Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud scoring in each half before Anders Christiansen found the net for the home side.
Chelsea have finally scored away from home in 2019, and once in the lead there were signs that this group of players have not yet given up on trying to play Maurizio Sarri's football. Two away goals put them in command of the tie and they can now focus on the tougher tests that await in February.
Malmo caused more problems in both halves than Sarri or anyone who wants to see him last at Chelsea will be comfortable with, and their fluid attacks came in spurts rather than a constant stream. This was also yet another opportunity wasted to give Callum Hudson-Odoi some meaningful pitch time.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- There was no tactical rethink from Sarri, though one was never really expected. Chelsea at least looked vaguely familiar with his intentions and scored two nice goals. It is looking likelier and likelier by the week that Hudson-Odoi's move to Bayern has simply been postponed for a few months.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 -- Parried one looping effort over that he might have caught, but otherwise had little to do as the majority of Malmo's most dangerous moments did not result in a shot on target. His distribution was typically solid. Was left totally exposed for Christiansen's goal.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- Chelsea's steadiest defender in a nervy opening half-hour, making several vital interceptions to compensate for the mistakes of others. Also seems to be picking the right moments to surge forward these days, though his crossing remains a little erratic.
DF Andreas Christensen, 6 -- Calm and composed in possession as ever, reading most situations well. Allowed himself to be turned far too easily by Markus Rosenberg though, before the Malmo captain played in Christiansen to score.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Scrambled defensively to reasonable effect as Malmo pressed early on, blocking one fierce goal-bound shot from Amor Traustason. An otherwise positive display was tarnished, though, when his misplaced pass on the halfway line directly led to a goal for the hosts.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 6 -- Chelsea always seem to look more fluid with his mobile presence on the left of the back-four, and his comfort level on the ball also enables sharper passing combinations. His defensive positioning sometimes raised questions, but Malmo were not good enough to take advantage.
MF Ross Barkley, 8 -- Served notice of his more aggressive mindset with an early interception and blocked shot, and made noticeably more effort to attack the penalty area. Capitalised on his own fortunate mis-control to net his first goal in European competition and should have scored again from Giroud's back-heel.
MF Jorginho, 6 -- Recovered from his nightmare showing at the Etihad Stadium, but even against Malmo his lack of physicality and tenacity in the tackle caused problems for those behind him. Will remain the focus of debate around Sarri's system as long as he displays such exploitable weaknesses.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 -- A mixed bag. Showed some nice touches and even burst forward with the ball at his feet at times, but he remains a little too safe with his passing and occasionally played teammates into trouble, particularly during Chelsea's uncertain first half.
FW Pedro Rodriguez, 7 -- Having defended Sarri's system fiercely in the prematch news conference he did everything he could to make it work on the pitch, running tirelessly to provide defensive cover as well as an attacking threat. Picked out Barkley well for the first goal.
FW Olivier Giroud, 8 -- Once those around him began to move in the second half his polished link-up play came to life. He combined particularly well with Willian and met the Brazilian's low cross with a clever flick at the near post to double Chelsea's lead in the second half, and almost created a third for Barkley.
FW Willian, 7 -- Offered little spark in an uninspired first half but as Malmo pushed forward in search of an equaliser his opportunities to carry the ball in transition increased. His best surge led to Giroud's goal and he was a constant threat, even if his corner deliveries were not consistently dangerous.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- A strange choice of substitute, presumably introduced with Sarri hoping to end the tie in the first leg. If that was the aim then Hazard failed to have the desired effect, despite producing some nice flashes.
MF N'Golo Kante, N/A - Brought on to give Jorginho a rest for the final 15 minutes.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, N/A - Given a pretty worthless six-minute cameo in place of Pedro with the match fading in intensity late on.