Ross Barkley scored 30 minutes in, and that was all Chelsea needed as they picked up a solid first-leg advantage with a 2-1 victory over Malmo in Sweden.
The former Everton midfielder made a blistering run to reach Pedro‘s deep cross, losing his defender while collecting the ball and firing an off-balance shot into the back of the net on the half-hour mark. Olivier Giroud added the icing on the cake in the 58th minute as Willian sent the ball across the face of goal and the Frenchman was on hand to poke it in on the doorstep.
It wasn’t elementary for the Blues, as Malmo was dangerous throughout the match, especially in the start of the second half as blocks from David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta kept the home side out. Ultimately, despite holding just 33% possession, Malmo somehow outshot Chelsea 14-4 through the first hour of the match but could only put one of those on target. Anders Christiansen eventually grabbed a late goal for Malmo in the 80th minute to give the Blues something to think about in the second leg. The Danish international struck on the break as he beat Emerson to a through-ball and muscled him off for the finish.
Mateo Kovacic was the biggest influencer in the match for Chelsea, completing a hefty 115/117 passes and completing all three of his one-on-one take-ons. Barkley was the most dangerous going forward, scoring the first goal and then running the break before distributing to Willian ahead of Giroud’s finish.
The win for the Blues is a solid bounce-back from its embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City, as winning on the road in European play is always a positive result. It also means Chelsea has reached 10 straight European games unbeaten, with nine wins and a draw in that span.
Chelsea now heads home for the second leg on February 21, holding a solid advantage in the matchup. Malmo would need to outscore Chelsea by two goals and also score more than two goals to win in regulation.