An Olivier Giroud strike proved to be enough for Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea as they outclassed BATE Borisov away from home by 1-0 to qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League. The Frenchman met a cross from Emerson Palmieri in the 51st minute to hand his side the lead, and eventually the winner.
The Blues dominated proceedings for the entirety of the contest but found it hard work breaking a rather resolute BATE defence. The hosts too, had rare but clear-cut opportunities, but failed to test Chelsea often.
With 12 points, three clean sheets and four wins in a row in the European tournament, Chelsea have qualified to the round-of-64 and extended their unbeaten start to the season to 17 matches.
Here are 5 major talking points from Chelsea's 1-0 victory over BATE Borisov.
#1 Maurizio Sarri names a starting XI with a few surprises
Maurizio Sarri named a strong starting XI against the Belarusian champions. In his press conference ahead of the clash, he had mentioned that Eden Hazard would be ready to play around 45-40 minutes after having recovered from a back injury. Against many predictions, the Italian mastermind drafted his star man straight back into the playing XI.
The defence meanwhile, was completely changed as envisioned. Club captain Gary Cahill started alongside Andreas Christensen at the heart of defence. Sarri's most preferred center-back pair - David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger - did not even travel with the squad.
Emerson Palmieri and Davide Zappacosta started on either sides of the four-man defence in place of Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was handed another start owing to his recent returns and rise in form, whereas Ross Barkley, who started Chelsea's previous game, kick-started this one too.
Against many prophecies, Mateo Kovacic was on the bench again. Willian, who was taken off at the hour mark, was expected to start this one as well. However, Sarri opted to play Pedro, who played full 90 minutes against Crystal Palace last time out.
Although seven alterations were made, Sarri chose a strong, star-studded line-up.
His substitutions were spot on albeit, as he removed Eden Hazard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek at the hour mark or so in place of Willian and Mateo Kovacic respectively. Both Hazard and Loftus-Cheek looked far from their best.