Game 7: Chelsea 3.1 Bate Borisov (Europa League) 25.10.18
My first visit to Stamford Bridge and also the first time I’ve seen a UEFA club match. Tickets for the game were £20 and as I arrived at the ground the ‘Sold Out’ signs were up. I had a ticket for the East Stand and found myself near the top of the stand, level with the commentary booths and thankfully not behind the pillars further along the row I was in. The ground filled up quickly near to kickoff and at one end a banner dedicated to Matthew Harding, the former Chelsea vice-chairman, was unveiled.
Chelsea’s team had eight changes from the side that drew against Manchester United at the weekend. Some of the changes were tactical to rest players with Eden Hazard missing through injury. The only player I recognised in the Bate lineup was former Arsenal player Alexander Hleb who is still playing at 37. Bate had brought a few hundred supporters from Belarus and were hoping for an improvement from their last visit to London, a 6.0 defeat to Arsenal. We didn’t have to wait long for the first goal as Chelsea pressed forward in the second minute. Zappacosta crossed the ball into the area from the right and it fell nicely for Loftus-Cheek to sweep a shot past the keeper. Six minutes later and Loftus-Cheek scored again, this time from a corner. Willian crossed the ball and Loftus-Cheek managed to shrug off a defender and knock the ball in.
Chelsea should have scored from another Willian corner as the ball skimmed off Cahill’s head. Christensen got a foot to the ball but couldn’t get any power or direction on it and may have prevented the ball going in. Bate were under a lot of pressure and didn’t create many opportunities as Chelsea closed them down, won the ball and then counter-attacked. Loftus-Cheek had a chance to get his hat-trick towards the end of the half but headed the ball well wide from a good position. It was a real treat to watch Willian taking on and beating defenders.
We had to wait until the second half for Loftus-Cheek to get his hat-trick. Pedro took on the Bate defence but couldn’t get past a defender in the area. The ball bounced off the defender and fell nicely for Loftus-Cheek to side foot a shot across the goal. The keeper got his hands to it but couldn’t deflect it wide and the ball continued into the goal. The pace of the game slowed down as Chelsea were content to keep possession. It was good to see another academy product, Hudson-Odoi, come on to replace Pedro and he looked like an exciting prospect. Zappacosta had a shot on goal that the keeper managed to clear before his best save of the night, a reaction save at close range to deny Giroud a goal.
Bate’s travelling fans were delighted with ten minutes to go as their side pulled back a goal. A freekick was whipped into the back post where Rios beat the offside trap with a well timed run and couldn’t miss from a foot out. There was still time for Loftus Cheek to attempt to get his fourth goal of the game but having beaten the defender in the area he couldn’t flick the ball over the onrushing keeper.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill, Emerson Palmieri, Loftus-Cheek, Fabregas, Kovacic (Kante 78), Willian (Moses 57), Giroud, Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 60)
Unused Subs: Caballero, Rudiger, Barkley, Morata
Bate: Scherbitski, Rios, Filipovic, Filipenko, Volodjko, Baha (Yablonskiy 76), Dragun, Hleb (Ivanic 59), Skavysh, Signevich (Tuominem 71), Stasevich
Unused Subs: Chichka, Berezkin, Volkov, Moukam