After an early setback, Chelsea showed their resilience to earn a vital 1-1 away draw in the first leg of the semi-finals against Frankfurt.
The result puts us in a strong position to reach the final in Baku in a few weeks, and could potentially pit us against Arsenal. I won’t get ahead of myself just yet, but based on the evidence of last night’s showing, I should expect us to overcome Frankfurt at the Bridge.
Let’s have a quick recap of last night’s events…
1st Half – Pedro Cancels out Jovic
First of all, the team news was slightly surprising as Sarri had left out Eden Hazard from the starting line-up. Understandably, he has played many games for us this season, but resting our best player in arguably our most important fixture of the season, left me a tad confused. Willian and Pedro supported Giroud up front, and after the first 20 minutes, I was already begging for a substitution.
Luka Jovic, who we highlighted as a danger to our defence, score a sublime headed goal that edged into the bottom corner. The celebration from Jovic was an epic fail though, and at a time of disappointment, it did cheer me up when he couldn’t slide so eloquently on the football pitch. Anyway, 1-0 to Frankfurt. Despite the shakey start, Chelsea did grow in the confidence as the half wore on, and we took control of the match.
Popping shots at the host’s goal, tallying up possession – it was an excellent response. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had a very good game, went closest with his shot that just scraped past the post. Just a few minutes before half time, Loftus-Cheek was again in the action, making himself space before setting up Pedro to finish just within a crowded penalty area.
Elation for Chelsea, knowing what a huge goal that could prove to be. Teams go into half time at 1-1.
2nd Half – Chelsea Fail to Get Winner
The 2nd half started as the first one finished, with the Blues on top. It looked a precarious situation in the first 20 minutes, but at no point during the rest of the match did I feel that we were up against it, or were tested a lot at the back. The 2nd half it seemed Frankurt were content on us having the ball, and were not overly keen on getting a winner.
David Luiz came closest for us, hitting the cross-bar with one of his trademark free-kicks. He did score in the semi-finals for Benfica back in 2013, but was a tad unlucky with his tremendous effort. The Brazilian also came close to a goal with a late header, but the keeper saved comfortably. Frankfurt’s best chance in the 2nd half came late on, with their captain David Abraham coming up for a corner and heading just wide – he should have scored, or at least tested Keppa.
The game petered out towards the end, and the final whistle was blown. Chelsea take a score draw back for the 2nd leg at home. Chelsea are now unbeaten in 16 Europa League away games, which is the record since the competition was re-branded in 2009.
Chelsea host Watford in their final home Premier League match of the season. The match is on Sunday kicking off at 2:00pm. We have to win that game and make sure that Arsenal don’t overtake us in the league. Getting top four via the league will take the pressure of our shoulders in the Europa League.
The last thing I want is us to finish 5th, and then have to rely on beating Arsenal in the Europa League final to obtain Champions League football for next season.
After the meeting with Watford, we then have three days to prepare for 2nd leg against Frankfut next Thursday at Stamford Bridge.