Football news - Olivier Giroud header sends Chelsea into knockout round
Europa League Group L, Borisov Arena - BATE Borisov 0 Chelsea 1 (Giroud 53')
A powerful second-half header from Olivier Giroud was enough to give Chelsea a 1-0 win over BATE Borisov in Belarus and secure progression to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
The Blues started with the recovering Eden Hazard, but were much-changed from the team that overcame Crystal Palace at the weekend, and they failed to muster a single shot on target in a dire first-half.
There was relief, then, for Chelsea and Giroud who ended his goal-drought with a super glanced header just eight minutes after the restart.
The home side rallied, and were desperately unfortunate not to equalise, striking the woodwork on two occasions, while Aleksey Rios also spurned a gilt-edged opportunity.
It was a night to forget for Maurizio Sarri, but his side are now through to the next round and remain unbeaten in the opening 17 matches of the season. The Blues will win the group if they can overcome second-placed Greek side PAOK later this month.
TALKING POINT - Giroud finally gets off the mark
There won't be many positives for Sarri to take from this rather forgetful game, but the sight of Giroud celebrating a goal will have brought a smile to the Italian's face.
It had been almost 800 minutes without any joy for Giroud in Chelsea colours, and it looked like it was going to be another frustrating night for the 32-year-old.
Handed an opportunity to impress in the absence of first-choice striker Alvaro Morata - rested for the tie - Giroud had been left to feed on scraps for most of the night, but he was alert and had the ability to pounce on Emerson's delicious in-swinger - the first delivery of any real quality of the night - giving Sarri a decision to make when selecting his side for the home match with Everton on Sunday.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)
His link-up play constantly brought team-mates into play and his first goal since May proved the defining moment of the game.
BATE: Scherbitski 6, Rios 6, Volkov 7, Filipenko 6, Filipovic 6, Hleb 6, Dragun 7, Baga 7, Skavysh 5, Signevich 7, Stasevich 6. Subs: Berezkin 5, Tuominen 5, Moukam 5.
Chelsea: Kepa 7, Zappacosta 7, Cahill 6, Christensen 7, Emerson 7, Barkley 6, Jorginho 8, Loftus-Cheek 6, Pedro 6, Giroud 8, Hazard 7. Subs: Kovacic 5, Hudson-Odoi N/A, Willian 5.
12' - OFF THE POST! No one closes down Baga and the BATE midfielder accepts the invitation to shoot from 25 yards. And what an effort it is, too. He catches it really sweetly, the ball looks destined for the far corner, Kepa is beaten, but it cannons agonisingly off the woodwork.
53' - GOAL! BATE 0-1 Chelsea: GIROUD TO THE RESCUE! It's a typical goal from the Frenchman. Emerson bends a delicious cross to the near post, Giroud skips away from his marker and makes connection with a powerful header which squirms past the goalkeeper. It's Giroud's first goal under manager Sarri.
58' - OFF THE CROSSBAR! Stasevich's shot from inside the box smashes off the top of the bar! For the second time this evening BATE are denied by the woodwork! It's another let-off for Chelsea.
60' - MISS! BATE spurn a glorious chance to level the scores! Chelsea fail to track the run of Stasevhich and he is free to pull a cross back to Rios who makes a late run into the box. He has lots of time to pick his spot, but he leans back and skies the shot over with the goal gaping.
90'+3 - POST! Chelsea are just hanging on here - BATE are denied by the woodwork again following a goal-mouth scramble!
- Olivier Giroud's goal for Chelsea was his first in 794 minutes of action for the club, since netting against Liverpool in May.
- Chelsea have failed to register a single shot on target in the first half of a match for the first time in any competition this season.
- This was the first time Chelsea have started three English players (Cahill, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek) in a European match since April 2014 against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League (Cahill, Terry, Cole).