Chelsea’s swagger returns in four-goal rout of Malmö at Stamford Bridge

Injuries to Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner a concern for Tuchel

Kai Havertz scores  Chelsea’s third goal past Malmö goalkeeper Ismael Diawara during the Champions League group H  match at Stamford Bridge. Photograph:  Neil Hall/EPA

Kai Havertz scores Chelsea’s third goal past Malmö goalkeeper Ismael Diawara during the Champions League group H match at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

 

Chelsea 4 Malmö 0

It was just a shame that Romelu Lukaku missed out on all the fun. This was a pulsating performance from Chelsea, who have rarely looked this exhilarating under Thomas Tuchel, and the final score probably would have been more resounding if they had not lost their main striker to an ankle injury during the first half.

The positive is that Lukaku had already done his job by the time he limped off in the 22nd minute, although it summed up his luck that the blow to his ankle arrived just when he was poised to end his goal drought. Lasse Nielsen had brought the Belgian down with a desperate challenge in the area and Tuchel, who also lost Timo Werner to a hamstring injury, will hope that the damage is not too severe.

At least the injuries had no impact on the outcome. Chelsea, second in Group H, were rampant against limited opponents. Goals from Andreas Christensen and Kai Havertz, plus two penalties for Jorginho, were their reward.

The question of balance had occupied Tuchel’s thoughts before this game. He has placed a heavy emphasis on control since arriving at Stamford Bridge last January and, while his preferred 3-4-2-1 system has made his team difficult to break down, there have been times in recent weeks when it has hard not to wonder if Chelsea would benefit from picking a more expansive line-up against certain opponents, particularly with the goals starting to dry up for Lukaku.

It has not escaped Tuchel’s attention that the impeccable defensive stability has come at a cost at the other end, most notably in those insipid defeats to Manchester City and Juventus last month. The attacking moves can feel cold at times, a little too cautious and predictable, although it should be pointed out that there is an obvious retort when people question Tuchel’s approach: Chelsea, after all, remain top of the Premier League and, as their fans repeatedly pointed out as kick-off approached here, they are the champions of Europe.

All the same this felt like a night when Chelsea had to let rip, to offer proof that they can be exciting as well as efficient. It was not an occasion that called for a patient approach. Chelsea had to seize the initiative from the start; they had to thrill the crowd.

They were not up against much. Malmö looked out of their depth in their first two outings in this competition, conceding seven and scoring none in defeats to Juve and Zenit St Petersburg, and their manager, Jon Dahl Tomasson, was not holding out much hope of an upset. Tomasson knew that the Swedish champions were likely to lose and although they deserved credit for trying to exert a high press during the early stages, it was not long before they were being pinned back by Chelsea’s attacking swarm.

With Mason Mount moving intelligently and repeatedly threatening to prise the visitors apart, Chelsea could have killed the game in the first 10 minutes. Ben Chilwell, a rampaging force from left wing back, headed over from a Jorginho cross and there was another addition to Werner’s bulging portfolio of hilarious misses when he stabbed wide from six yards after being picked out by Lukaku, who also saw a deflected effort acrobatically turned over by Johan Dahlin.

Malmö could not cope with the quality of Tuchel’s side. There was a swagger to Chelsea, an intensity to their play, and the opening goal soon arrived.

Thiago Silva picked up possession on the right after Malmö failed to clear their lines from a corner and the Brazilian’s cross was met on the full by Christensen, who turned in his fellow centre back’s cross with a clever volley.

There was more to come when Chelsea countered in the 19th minute, Mount and Werner combining to spring Lukaku into space on the left.

The striker bullied his way into the area and looked certain to score for the first time in seven games, only for Nielsen to scythe him down with a ludicrous challenge. The defender was booked and Jorginho calmly converted the penalty, although the goal came at a cost: Lukaku, who had required treatment on his ankle after the foul, turned to the bench and indicated that he could not continue.

Not that the striker’s departure made any difference. Chelsea continued to dominate after introducing Havertz, who twice went close before the interval, then when Callum Hudson-Odoi came on for the hamstrung Werner. There was no letting up. They continued to torment Malmö and they extended their lead when Tuchel’s substitutes combined at the start of the second half, Hudson-Odoi leading a counterattack and releasing Havertz to score with a delightful dink.

Malmö, whose wing backs had pushed daringly high early on, were being taught a painful lesson. They were determined to play – Antonio Colak had gone close in the first half – but they were far too naive. Chelsea revelled in the wide open spaces and they won another penalty when Antonio Rüdiger charged forward from the back before being chopped down by Eric Larsson after a cute pass from Havertz, giving Jorginho the chance to make it 4-0. – Guardian

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