Barkley and Giroud give Blues command of Europa League knockout clash

Chelsea took control of their Europa League last-32 clash with a 2-1 victory over Malmo in Sweden.

Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud struck either side of half-time to give the Blues two crucial away goals ahead of the return leg at Stamford Bridge.

However, with the visitors searching for a third, Malmo decided to make things interesting and halved the deficit through Anders Christiansen.

Maurizio Sarri’s men ought to have taken more than a one-goal lead back to London, with several guilt-edged chances wasted, but the manager will be pleased with his team’s convincing display following the 6-0 battering at Manchester City on Sunday.

The Blues took the lead in straightforward style as Malmo’s defence erred when Pedro crossed.

The ball reached Barkley 10 yards out and the midfielder dug the ball out from under his feet and prodded in.

Barkley’s first European goal was also Chelsea’s first away goal of 2019, after four matches without one.

Malmo did cause Chelsea problems, particularly from set-pieces, but Kepa Arrizabalaga’s first save saw Soren Rieks denied early in the second half.

Chelsea struck a second when Willian darted down the left and crossed for Giroud to flick in at the near post after 58 minutes.

It was the France World Cup-winning striker’s first goal since his strike at Vidi in Budapest in mid-December, albeit just two of his 10 appearances in the intervening period had been starts.

Barkley was denied by Malmo goalkeeper Johan Dahlin and a Pedro effort deflected wide before Hazard was introduced, followed by Kante.

But it was Malmo who scored, as David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta were pulled out of position and Markus Rosenberg threaded a fine pass to Christiansen.

The midfielder held off Mateo Kovacic and finished expertly to add to Sarri’s anxieties.

Two Malmo fans encroached on to the pitch at the full-time whistle and one hugged Hazard, releasing his grip only when he was given the Chelsea ace’s shirt. That is another incident which will attract UEFA scrutiny.

Source: Talk sports

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