Chelsea fought on to a 1-0 victory over Malmö in the Champions League group H on Tuesday night in southern Sweden.
It was a frustrating first half of attack versus defense that only gave the visitors a clear chance. Ruben Loftus-Cheek slipped and slithered in the wet grass. His usual rapid runs were nowhere to be seen today.
Hakim Ziyech and Loftus-Cheek dismissed half chances and Andreas Christensen saw a long-range drive saved on the second attempt by Johan Dahlin before Malmö almost struck a hammer blow in the first half stoppage time, with Antonio-Mirko Colak volleying just outside Edouard Mendy’s far post after smart work by Sergio Peña from a drop.
Loftus-Cheek created a chance for himself ten minutes after the break, showed great strength and smart footwork before he got a shot off, but Dahlin blocked.
Two minutes later, Chelsea scored the decisive goal, with Callum Hudson-Odoi combining with Havertz before running free and putting the ball on a plate for Ziyech, who finished first in the empty net.
Thiago Silva saw a header cleared off the line before Havertz wasted another one-on-one after more excellent work from Loftus-Cheek, but one goal proved to be enough.
The Blues stay second in Group H on nine points, and the leader Juventus has a match in progress.
This is how the Chelsea players rated …
It was a stress-free night for Chelsea’s defender / David Lidstrom / GettyImages
Edouard Mendy (GK) – 7/10 – Literally nothing to do the whole match, but commanded his box.
Andreas Christensen (CB) – 8/10 – Hammered a shot from distance and the goalkeeper spilled, but the follow-up could not be forced home. Flexible on the ball and did his job well. Won five ground duels, five aerial duels and made four ball recoveries.
Thiago Silva (CB) – 7/10 – Marshalled the central areas well and stayed focused with not much work to do. Saw a nod cleared from the line when the Blues were ahead. Booked.
Antonio Rüdiger (CB) – 7/10 – Engaged in some physical battles, but generally a pretty comfortable night.
It was a typical Ruben Loftus-Cheek appearance / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / GettyImages
Cesar Azpilicueta (RWB) – 6/10 – Almost rounded a fine team move, but his weak shot was shot outside. Careless in possession and only began to look his age sometimes.
Jorginho (CM) – 7/10 – Running Chelsea’s best attack in the first half with a simple but oh so effective ten-yard pass. Kept things ticking over and barely wasted a pass, as always.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (CM) – 8/10 – Great ability to throw the ball over an opponent’s head before spraying a volley pass. Brilliant strength and footwork before the goalkeeper works after the break. Used his body wonderfully again before he was late on a ball in Havertz, but the German wasted the chance again.
Marcos Alonso (LWB) – 6/10 – Cut a frustrated figure as he tried to move forward in the first period. Not really involved after the break.
Ziyech took the key goal / David Lidstrom / GettyImages
Hakim Ziyech (RF) – 7/10 – Floated around dangerously early and saw a half chance suffocated from the angle. Brilliant ball juggling created a chance for himself, but the shot was saved. Earned his goal and struck home from Hudson-Odoi’s low cross. Subbed.
Kai Havertz (CF) – 7/10 – Busy in the opening exchanges and had a couple of penalty calls, but missed a presentable opportunity. Well done in the build-up to the premiere, played the fake nior role to perfection. Wasted one to one-on-one late.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (LF) – 7/10 – Got into some dangerous situations in the first half but seemed to choose the safe pass. Sweet one or two before you explode and put it on a plate for Ziyech. Subbed.
Ross Barkley (RF) – 6/10 – Busy cameo
Christian Pulisic (LF) – N / A
For more from Krishan Davis, follow him on Twitter!