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Malmo 1-2 Chelsea: Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud strike to hand Blues advantage in tie at Stamford Bridge

As Chelsea supporters filtered into the Malmo squares in the early hours of Friday morning, the theme of the conversation would be quite clear. 

Did this result represent a blanket over the flames? Or is there life yet in the ailing reign of Maurizio Sarri? 

For long periods of this fraught encounter, another team in blue and white promised to deepen the malaise inflicting Sarri. 

MATCH FACTS AND STATS

Malmo (4-4-2): Dahlin 6; Vindheim 6, Nielson 5, Bengtsson 6.5, Safari 6; Traustason 7 (Lewicki 70, 6), Christiansen 7 (Gall 82), Bachirou 6, Rieks 6; Antonsson 6 (Strandberg 70), Rosenborg 6.

Subs not used: Melicharek, Larsson, Binaku, Ahmedhodzic

Goal: Christiansen 80 

Manager: Uwe Rosler 6

Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga 6; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 6, Luiz 5.5, Emerson 6; Kovacic 6, Jorginho 7 (Kante 74, 6), Barkley 7.5; Pedro 6 (Hudson-Odoi 84), Giroud 6, Willian 6.5 (Hazard 71, 6)

Subs not used: Caballero, Rudiger, Higuain, Zappacosta

Goals: Barkley 30, Giroud 58 

Manager: Maurizio Sarri 6

Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov  

After Manchester City’s balletic exhibition in Manchester, another team in blue and white threatened to deepen the malaise inflicting Sarri.

As Arsenal demonstrated earlier in the evening, there are no walkovers in the knockout stages of European combat. In these less-vaunted parts of the continent, matches like this do not come along very often and Malmo responded to the sense of occasion.

Their manager Uwe Rosler set the tie up with much bravado. The former Manchester City striker spoke of his joy at Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat and warned the ‘stadium would be cooking’.

The locals did not disappoint. They bobbed up and down in the manner usually seen at Germany’s most lively stadiums, they ignited red flares and a misty smoke enveloped their sold-out home. A hiss greeted every Chelsea touch and exaggerated outrage met every decision that went against their team. The two sets of fans hurled beer back and forth during the first period and a line of Swedish police intervened at the fence separating the two fans as matters promised to escalate.

Chelsea, already facing a potential partial stadium closure due to alleged anti-Semitic chants earlier in the campaign, may face another UEFA charge. On the final whistle, two home fans invaded the pitch, one confronting Eden Hazard before being caught by stewards.

Yet even when Chelsea looked safe, sound and sailing into the next round, angst crept in. N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard were by now on the field as substitutes but with a 2-0 lead, suddenly the Chelsea defence parted and Anders Christiansen sped through to half the deficit and offer hope to the home crowd.

Sarri made five changes from the side that collapsed in Manchester. Marcos Alonso was axed from the squad and there were rests for Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain. Despite the reshuffle, Callum Hudson-Odoi had to make do once more with a place on the bench and only arrived in the 84th minute.

There was always the suspicion Malmo may tire and so it proved. Chelsea should have added more goals, first when Barkley was superbly denied by Johan Dahlin and then when Pedro curled wide. Yet for Sarri, this was welcome respite. How long it will last remains another question entirely. 

WATCH HIGHLIGHT

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