Tuesday 26 March 2019

Chelsea advance but jeers keep Sarri in firing line

Chelsea 3 Malmo 0

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo: Reuters

Jack Pitt-Brooke

These are, most likely, the last days for Maurizio Sarri as a Chelsea manager from whom any successor will inherit a team in the last 16 of the Europa League and, judging by last night's events, a match-going support who want to see something completely different.

Chelsea were jeered at half-time and the name of Sarri's Brazilian-Italian midfielder Jorginho was twice booed by elements of the home support before the game and then when he was introduced as a substitute with the tie won and Malmo down to ten men. Strange times at Stamford Bridge where the disquiet is never far from the surface.

Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team mates. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi celebrates scoring his side's third goal with team mates. Photo: Reuters

This second leg against Malmo was never likely to prove a tipping point either way for Sarri's future, which will come after Sunday's Carabao Cup final against Manchester City when there is also the possibility for further humiliation.

He is most likely to be judged on his team's performance against Tottenham in the league on Wednesday when the hierarchy will get a clearer idea of how they stand relative to the top four.

Until then he survives, with a much improved second-half performance from his players who made it an emphatic 5-1 aggregate win, topped off by a goal from Callum Hudson-Odoi, given a start at last. The 18-year-old cut in from the left to drill in the third in a Chelsea finishing XI that included the substitutes Ethan Ampadu and Ruben Loftus-Cheek which suggested that Sarri is at least prepared to give the youngsters some time when he can.

By then the tie was won, and goals from Olivier Giroud and a free-kick from Ross Barkley had decided it. The night had been given its character by the relentless noise from the Malmo fans who celebrated their team's progress to the knockout round of the Europa League with a barrage of noise.

Malmo's Lasse Nielsen and Chelsea's Willian battle for possession. Photo: Reuters
Malmo's Lasse Nielsen and Chelsea's Willian battle for possession. Photo: Reuters

The only good thing Chelsea could say about the first half was that their lead from the first leg was still intact by its end. It had been an inauspicious start when the teams were read out and the name of Jorginho, on the bench this time, was booed by the Chelsea fans. It was not particularly loud but it was noticeable.

Even without the manager's favourite midfielder in the side there was still no holding role for N'Golo Kante and although he did manage to get in the way of some of Malmo's better moments this was another struggle for Chelsea.

Chelsea finally broke through ten minutes after the break although this was a goal that felt very much divorced from the Sarri-ball philosophy of patient build-up and short passes.

This one was launched forward by the boot of Willy Caballero, there was a second ball to be won from a poor header from the away side and suddenly Kante was scampering through the away team.

He released Willian down the right and his cross was guided in by Giroud.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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