Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud scored ensure a 2 – 1 win over Malmo in the Europa League first leg, to ease the pressure on coach Maurizio Sarri.
After a chastening week in which Chelsea suffered their heaviest defeat of the Roman Abramovich era, the future of Sarri appears more secure for the moment after a scratchy performance in southern Sweden.
Barkley stabbed home on the half – hour mark before Giroud’s clever flick doubled their lead. A late consolation from Andres Christiansen ensured the Swedish outfit are still in it for the second leg, but Chelsea held on to scure their first away win since December 30.
Sarri made five changes for the trip, including a first start for Giroud in four game, but it all seemed too similar for the Blues, who dominated the early possession but failed to create a clear opportunity.
Special goals for the scorers as it happened to be Ross Barkley’s first ever goal in European competition and Olivier Giroud’s first strike of the year.
On Monday they face Manchester United in the FA Cup, and then Malmo in the second leg, Manchester City in the final of the Carabao Cup and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.
That game against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer next week was clearly in Sarri’s thoughts, with Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain both starting on the bench. Perhaps more surprisingly, Callum Hudson-Odoi was also named as a substitute, only a few weeks after Chelsea rejected bids of over £30m from Bayern Munich for the teenage winger.
Sarri desperately needed a response after Sunday’s shambles against Manchester City, the biggest Chelsea defeat of the Roman Abramovich era.
Pedro had a chance to score the third of the night but his curling effort was deflected inches past the far post.
Starting line -ups : Malmo vs Chelsea
Malmo: Dahlin, Vindheim, Nielsen, Bengtsson, Safari, Traustason (70), Christiansen (82), Bachirou, Rieks, Antonsson (70), Rosenberg
Substitutes: Melicharek, Larsson, Binaku,Lewicki (70), Ahmedhodzic, Gall(82)
Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson, Barkley, Jorginho (74), Kovacic, Pedro (84), Giroud, Willan (71)
Substisutes: Callabero, Rudiger, Kante (74), Higuain, Hazard (71), Hudson-Odio (84), Zappacosta
Referee: Aleksey Kulbakov (Belarus)