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Away goal guarantees Blues nothing: Azpilicueta

Top strike: Pedro celebrates after equalising for Chelsea
Top strike: Pedro celebrates after equalising for Chelsea

By Nick Purewal

Pedro's crucial goal scrambled Chelsea a frenetic 1-1 Europa League semi-final first-leg draw at Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Spain forward's 12th strike of the season brought the Blues parity in the tie - and a valuable away goal - after Luka Jovic headed the hosts in front.

Chelsea had to battle a hostile and raucous home crowd at the Commerzbank Arena on a night where Ruben Loftus-Cheek shone.

Loftus-Cheek laid on Pedro's goal and bossed midfield every time Chelsea dominated. The Blues' biggest problem, however, was maintaining that control.

Head coach Maurizio Sarri will be relatively satisfied with this result, but Chelsea will hope not to rue missed chances in next Thursday's return leg.

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta said: "We have an away goal which is important but it is only the first step. Everything will be decided next Thursday.

"They are a dangerous team. The job started in September, now let's finish it and bring our fans to Baku."

Andreas Christensen was lucky to avoid a red card on a tense night for the Blues' stretched defence.

Sarri's men felt pressure build through the absence of injured duo Antonio Rudiger and Gary Cahill, even before Eintracht took control early on.

Olivier Giroud survived a Frankfurt appeal for a penalty, with the ball hitting the France forward's body inside the area.

But despite all the setbacks and a worryingly sluggish start, Chelsea still merited the draw.

Sarri left Eden Hazard on the bench, insisting the Belgium talisman was tired, and that led to a timid start.

Christensen was rightly booked for a lunging tackle on Sebastian Rode, and home skipper David Abraham blazed over from the resulting free-kick.

Chelsea failed to heed the warning signs and leaked a poor goal in the 23rd minute.

Filip Kostic cantered down the left after Giroud ceded possession cheaply and whipped in a neat cross. A stooping Jovic flicked the ball to the far corner, but failed to add power. So when the ball bounced past Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea looked stunned.

Christensen's nervy night continued unabated when he upended Mijat Gacinovic, but he escaped a second booking.

Just when the Blues feared being thwarted in the first half, Loftus-Cheek teed up Pedro and the Spaniard blasted home.

Eintracht remained dangerous on the counter in the second half, and Chelsea avoided censure despite home claims for a Giroud handball after a corner.

Abraham headed over from a corner at point-blank range, and then Makoto Hasebe was hounded out by N'Golo Kante after Chelsea lost possession just outside their own box.

Belfast Telegraph


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