Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri felt that Jorginho’s absence hampered the Blues’ midfield during their Europa League win over Malmo.
Sarri’s side saw off their Swedish opponents over two legs, landing a 5-1 score on aggregate and moving into the next knockout round, having won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge courtesy of a second-half onslaught in south west London.
Olivier Giroud scored his sixth of the competition before Ross Barkley lifted a delicious free-kick into the corner of the net. Callum Hudson-Odoi clinched victory with an expert finish to round off the evening, the Blues’ third goal in the space of half an hour.
All was not as comfortable as the scoreline suggested, with Malmo making life extremely difficult, especially in the first half where Chelsea lacked quality. Their expedition came to a swift halt after conceding, then losing centre back Rasmus Bengtsson, after he was dismissed for a second yellow card prior to Barkley’s stunning set-piece.
Typically, Chelsea dominated the possession statistics, bossing with 72% of the ball, even without their linchpin, Jorginho, in the starting line-up. There was obvious displeasure from inside the ground when the Italian was brought on, however, Sarri still fought the corner of his treasured asset, who he bought to England from Napoli at the start of this season.
Referring to some uneasy opening exchanges for the hosts, Sarri said: “In the first 30 minutes, we understood why Jorginho is very important for our team.
“We were in trouble to exit from our half, with Jorginho, it is easier. I hope our fans can understand he is very important to us.”
Sarri started his post-match conference discussing the Blues’ struggles to adapt to Malmo’s high-pressing nature.
The former Napoli boss said: “We played the first 30 minutes without confidence, nervous. We were unable to move the ball very fast, we were in trouble from their pressing.
“Better [in the] last 15 minutes. After our first goal, we started to move the ball very fast with confidence. It wasn’t easy for us to play this match, I can understand my players in the first 30 minutes.”
A pungent air still lingers over the manager and his future, reflected in his squad’s start to the game. Chelsea were recently knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, a clear blow to the Blues’ confidence.
“We are in a difficult moment”, Sarri continued. “It is normal to enter the pitch without confidence. It is impossible to play with quality without confidence.
“The application was good in the offensive phase. We need the confidence to be in control of the match if we want to move the ball fast with one, two touches.”
Chelsea now await the next round of the Europa League, with a host of European pedigree still waiting in the wings hoping to upset the 2013 winners of this competition.
By Nathaniel Kay at Stamford Bridge