Chelsea started well, but after the first 10 minutes, it was the home side, spurred on by an absolutely beyond raucous crowd, who had the better of play, better of chances, better of effort. So Luka Jovic’s opening goal was hardly a surprise, neither was the tremendous stooping header he produced from 12 yards out to put it in the one corner where Kepa Arrizabalaga had no chance.
But much like on the weekend, Chelsea got the equalizer at the best possible time, just before the stroke of half-time — Pedro lashing home after Loftus-Cheek held up the ball in the area.
Then, also much like on the weekend, Chelsea produced a much better second-half performance — until the final 10 or so minutes — but were unable to find the crucial winner despite a multitude of great chances. Chelsea also gifted a few late chances to the home side, but were able to survive.
A 1-1 first leg is not terrible, especially with the away goal. Will have to finish the job next Thursday at home.
- Lineup precisely as predicted, expected, hoped for, except for Eden Hazard starting on the bench due to “tiredness”. He was the first sub (for Willian), followed by Kovacic (for RLC).
- Chelsea now 13 unbeaten in this year’s competition (11 wins, 2 draws), 16 overall dating back to 2013, which is a new Europa League record.
- Third draw in a row in all competitions however.
- Next up: Watford at home on Sunday, the last home Premier League match of the season.