Chelsea kicked off the first leg of the Europa League Semi-Final in Germany against Eintracht Frankfurt, a team enjoying a very successful season in the Bundesliga. It was a slow start from Chelsea, who allowed Frankfurt to settle quickly and get a hold of the game. They were causing a lot of problems, particularly on the wings with some great play from Kostic and da Costa. It was the former that created the opening goal of the game, crossing into Luka Jovic and with the ball slightly behind him, the striker headed a fantastic goal in the bottom corner. It’s no wonder that half of Europe are chasing the signing of the Serbian.
The last 10-15 minutes of the first half saw Chelsea grow more into the game, with a superb low strike from Loftus-Cheek narrowly missing Trapp’s goal. Moments later, it was the Englishman who set up Pedro for Chelsea’s equaliser, a well taken strike which found its way into the back of the net, through a crowd of defenders. Chelsea went in at half time with their tails up, with the score at 1-1.
Instead of the usual second half meltdown, we saw a commanding display from Chelsea, who started well after the break. Loftus-Cheek missed a great chance early on followed by Willian taking too long on the ball and wasting a good opening. Yet again, the woodwork came to the rescue of Chelsea’s opponents, as Trapp tipped a brilliant Luiz free kick onto the crossbar.
As the Frankfurt players began to tire, which they did quite considerably, Eden Hazard was brought on but didn’t have the effect that Sarri was hoping for. Chelsea will feel like they had the opportunity to win the game, but a 1-1 draw away from home in a European semi-final is not a bad result.
“I am very happy with the performance but not with the result.”Maurizio Sarri speaking post match
That sums up Chelsea in this game. A great team performance, but again a lack of a clinical finisher at the top of the pitch. Sarri was visibly unhappy with the result as he said he thought that we did enough to win the game.
It was all about Chelsea’s midfield tonight, with the trio of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek putting in determined displays, as they controlled the game. The best player on the pitch tonight was most definitely Loftus-Cheek, with his surging runs, strength and forward thinking key in linking Chelsea’s midfield to the attack. Jorginho, a player who has received a lot of criticism this season, put in an amazing display. He made key tackles, interceptions and dictated the play from deep as Sarri demands. It was a performance that even the biggest Sarri Out fans couldn’t criticise. He even got stuck in and consequently played with a bandage round his head for much of the second half. N’Golo Kante was at his brilliant best, with his energy and running key in winning the ball back high up the pitch in order for Chelsea to sustain their attacks.
In essence, it was almost a perfect performance from Chelsea’s midfield, and it’s probably the only area of the pitch that doesn’t need any new players for the starting XI for next season. Those three should be the first choice trio for the foreseeable future.
Arrizabalaga – 7
Azpilicueta – 7
Christensen – 6
David Luiz – 5
Emerson – 6
Jorginho – 8
Kante – 8
Loftus-Cheek – 9
Pedro – 7
Giroud – 6
Willian – 5
Hazard – 6
Kovacic – N/A
What next for Chelsea?
After tonight’s result in Germany, Chelsea face another important test in the shape of FA Cup finalists Watford, in what is a must win game as they continue to chase a top 4 finish in the Premier League. There will be a fair bit of rotation in these last few games as Chelsea play four times in eleven days, including tonight’s match. There is still a very real possibility of a top 4 finish as well as Europa League success, in what would be a very good first season for Maurizio Sarri.
Up the Chels!