Saturday, December 4, 2021

Malmo 0-1 Chelsea: Ziyech edges Champions League holders closer to last 16

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Nov 2021

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Chelsea closed in on a place in the Champions League round of 16 thanks to a 1-0 away win over Malmo on Tuesday.

Comfortable 4-0 winners in the previous meeting on matchday three, the holders found life tougher at Eleda Stadion without the extra attacking impetus of the injured Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, as well as the ill Mason Mount.

Hakim Ziyech struck what proved to be the winner early in the second half after being picked out superbly by Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Despite bossing 74 per cent of the first-half possession, Chelsea found it difficult to pick their way through the Malmo defence, with speculative efforts from Ziyech and Andreas Christensen and a shot on the turn from Cesar Azpilicueta about as close as they came to breaking the deadlock.

Malmo looked a threat when breaking forward, too, with Antonio-Mirko Colak sending a volley wide after being picked out by Sergio Pena’s clever ball.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, making his first Champions League start for six years, stung the palms of goalkeeper Johan Dahlin before Marcos Alonso’s flick-on at a corner was deflected just wide.

Chelsea at last got the breakthrough 11 minutes into the second half, Ziyech side-footing home a simple finish after a terrific low cross from Hudson-Odoi, who had surged into space down the right.

Thiago Silva’s improvised effort was cleared off the line as Chelsea pursued a second, which Kai Havertz should really have delivered when he ran through on Dahlin’s goal but failed to slot the ball beneath him.

What does it mean? Chelsea on course for last 16

The win puts Chelsea on nine points from four Group H matches, meaning one more point from their final games against leaders Juventus and Zenit will see them through.

Malmo cannot now qualify for the last 16, but they could still claim third place in the group and drop into the Europa League.

Ziyech brings some spark

This was far from Chelsea at their slickest, but Ziyech took his opportunity to impress against stubborn opposition.

The 28-year-old had a game-high four shots and five chances created in his time on the pitch, while his eighth Champions League goal drew him level with record-holder Marouane Chamakh for Moroccan players in the competition.

Tougher tests await Tuchel

Malmo never looked likely to snatch an equaliser once Ziyech put Chelsea ahead and Dahlin’s nine saves helped to keep the deficit to a minimum.

Still, Chelsea were not as effective in possession as boss Thomas Tuchel will have wanted, which will need to be addressed before matchday five.

What’s next?

Chelsea host Juventus on matchday five, with Malmo at home to Zenit. More immediately, the Blues entertain Burnley at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League on Saturday.

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