Chelsea were able to advance through to the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday evening as they defeated BATE Borisov.
The Blues travelled to Belarus knowing that a win would book them their place in the Europa League’s Round of 32 following a perfect start to the competition this season.
Maurizio Sarri rotated his side and handed some fringe players the opportunity to impress, but the likes of Eden Hazard and Jorginho were still called upon to make the difference.
Ultimately, it was Olivier Giroud who proved to be the difference on the night as the France international’s header was enough to clinch Chelsea a narrow 1-0 win.
Sarri will be content in the knowledge that his side have secured their place in the knockout rounds but will know that the Blues’ performance was nowhere near the levels they have achieved already this season.
Here are five findings from the win against BATE.
Kepa delivers again
Kepa was rarely tested against BATE but when he was called into action, he produced. He made an excellent reflex save in the first half to keep his clean sheet intact and was composed throughout.
Cahill continues to underwhelm
Gary Cahill’s future at Chelsea is looking doubtful and his performances in recent times have acted as a decent explanation as to why. The experienced defender again struggled against BATE, was wasteful on the ball and never truly looked composed.
Kovacic adds extra energy
Following his second-half introduction, Kovacic helped Chelsea to improve. The Blues drove forward with a greater purpose, were more aggressive in midfield and were able to call on an extra outlet in the middle.
Now Kovacic must continue to perform with the same degree of intensity and tenacity when he is handed the chance to shine by Sarri.
Giroud's drought ends
Olivier Giroud was finally able to put an end to his goal drought and net for the first time this season. Although the Frenchman wasn’t particularly effective during the match, he’s sure to take confidence from his match-winning header.
Chelsea would certainly benefit from having two in-form strikers to choose upon, following the recent resurgence of Alvaro Morata in front of goal.
Barkley must escape inconsistency
Ross Barkley has certainly been a revelation for Chelsea this season but his recent form has been less than convincing. He struggled to impress against Crystal Palace and was similarly wasteful against BATE.
Barkley has all the makings of a top player but if he is to reach the heights that are expected of him, consistency must be developed.