PARIS, February 15: Chelsea claimed a 2-1 victory at Malmo in the Europa League last-32 first leg on Thursday to ease some of the pressure on beleaguered coach Maurizio Sarri, while Arsenal suffered a shock loss to BATE Borisov.
Visitors Chelsea desperately needed a response after back-to-back humiliating away losses, with last Sunday’s 6-0 thrashing by Manchester City following a 4-0 reverse at Bournemouth.
Ross Barkley took advantage of a defensive lapse by the home team to put Chelsea ahead on the half-hour mark, with Olivier Giroud adding a 58th-minute second before Malmo’s late goal gave them a glimmer of hope ahead of next week’s return match at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea face Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday, before facing City again in the League Cup final on February 24.
“I am happy because we played with confidence and it wasn’t really very easy after the last match (the defeat by City),” Sarri told BT Sport.
“I think I am always confident but sometimes we had the wrong approach with matches so we need to be careful in every match.”
Sarri named a strong team, although he did leave Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard on the bench.
Chelsea found themselves up against a spirited Malmo outfit in the first half, roared on by a vociferous home crowd, but kept the Swedes at arm’s length before Barkley grabbed their first away goal of 2019.
Pedro swung over a cross which Lasse Nielsen should have headed away, but the defender failed with his attemped volleyed clearance and Barkley was on hand to control and stab into the net.
Uwe Rosler’s Malmo piled on the pressure at the end of the half, but Barkley twice produced crucial headers at the other end to keep Chelsea in front.
But the Premier League giants took total control of the tie in the 58th minute with a wonderful counter-attack.
Barkley led the charge before picking out Willian, and the Brazilian powered to the byline before cutting the ball back for Giroud to flick in a cool backheeled finish.
The French striker has now scored five goals in six Europa League games this season, despite only netting once in 23 matches in domestic competitions.
But Malmo did grab the goal their efforts deserved in the 80th minute, as Anders Christiansen slotted past Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Arsenal face an uphill battle to progress after a 1-0 defeat by BATE in a game which saw Alexandre Lacazette sent off for elbowing Aleksandar Filipovic with five minutes remaining. (AFP)