As Eden Hazard’s free-kick sailed over a sea of team-mates and harmlessly out of play, Maurizio Sarri finally flipped in the dugout. Fifty minutes had passed and in the dank surroundings of Barysaw, his side were producing the worst performance of his short reign as Chelsea manager.
Overcome by frustration, Sarri, who had suffered with a fever earlier in the day, flew into a temper tantrum on the touchline. He wagged his finger, stomped his feet and his invective flew out into the Belarus night. The specific target of his spleen may have been Hazard but it was crystal clear that Sarri was by now thoroughly fed up of his players’ collective showing.
Whether they took much notice we will never truly know but Sarri was at least appeased in the minute that followed. At last, Chelsea rose from their slumber.
The ball was worked wide to Emerson Palmieri, up from left-back, and the Brazilian crossed well for Olivier Giroud, who stole in front of his marker to head in at the near post.
For Giroud, it marked the end of a personal ordeal, as he scored his first Chelsea goal for 794 minutes – a run that stretched all the way back to May. For Chelsea, the relief was palpable. This victory ensured their qualification into the final 32 but Sarri had reason for irritation.
Chelsea have not been at their free-wheeling best in this competition, defeating both Videoton and PAOK Salonika each by a single goal but at times this was truly rotten on a night they were spared three times by the woodwork.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
BATE Borisov (4-3-3): Scherbitski 6.5; Rios 6.5, Volkov 6, Filipenko 6, Filipovic 6.5; Baga 7, Dragun 7, Hleb 7 (Berezkin 81); Skavysh 6.5 (Moukam 76), Signevich 6.5 (Tuominen 73, 6), Stasevich 6
Subs not used: Chichkan, Yablonskiy, Ivanic, Polyakov.
Manager: Aleksei Baga 7
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa 7; Zappacosta 5.5, Cahill 6, Christensen 6, Emerson 7; Barkley 6, Jorginho 6, Loftus-Cheek 5.5 (Kovacic 64, 6); Pedro 5.5 (Hudson-Odoi 85), Giroud 7, Hazard 5.5 (Willian 62, 6)
Subs not used: Caballero, Kante, Azpilicueta, Ampadu.
Goals: Giroud (52)
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7
Referee: Nikola Dabanovic (Montenegro) 7.