An English side visiting a German side in a major European competition is an occasion that has been sorely feared for centuries. The stifling atmosphere imposed on the Chelsea players at the Commerzbank-Arena was no different.
It was the kind that might have left the Chelsea players not wanting to return to the pitch after heading down the tunnel from their warm-up.
Metaphorically speaking, not many Chelsea players did return from the tunnel for kick-off. The Blues were lacklustre and looked frustrated and agitated from the very beginning. Eintracht Frankfurt started much the better side and would have felt desperately disappointed to head into their return leg to Stamford Bridge on level terms.
Chelsea, though, ultimately improved as the match went on and will be filled with some amount of confidence with their crucial away goal.
Story of the match
A familiar combination for Frankfurt this season was Chelsea’s undoing. Sloppy play from Olivier Giroud allowed the hosts to break with staggering pace.
Filip Kostic epitomised everything that was good about the Bundesliga side and made his mark on the game by crossing into the in-form Luka Jovic. The rest was inevitable as the striker adjusted superbly to score his ninth goal of the Europa League campaign after 20 minutes of play.
There was very little going in the other direction. A half chance from Pedro soon after merely paused the incredible noise generated by the home support which resumed moments later.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was undoubtedly Chelsea’s best player in the first half of the match. He was the only player sporting Chelsea’s unorthodox yellow colours to really get at Frankfurt. It was the young English midfielder who split the opposition midfield and cut in from the left and shot just wide- shaving the post on his near side.
On the stroke of half-time Chelsea were level. Frankfurt fell tired for all their efforts for the majority of the first 45 minutes and it showed. A loose ball wasn’t dealt with and instead bounced to Pedro who dispatched with some amount of skill and composure to send Chelsea down the tunnel on level terms.
Chelsea started the second half much better than they did the first. They had far more possession and looked in control for the remainder of the game. David Luiz struck the crossbar with one of his trademark free-kicks as Chelsea went in search of a winner.
The next chance of the half fell to Loftus-Cheek whose powerful drive could only be parried by Kevin Trapp and onto Eden Hazard who had his goal-bound volley deflected.
The rest of the match was filled with nothing but half-chances as Chelsea made it 16 matches unbeaten in the Europa League competition with a 1-1 draw.
Is Pedro’s influence underrated?
The Spaniard is by no means perfect. He is inconsistent for sure but does provide Chelsea with valuable moments of experience and quality. His goal saved Chelsea before half-time. His energy saved them.
Pedro is Chelsea’s third top scorer this season and if Chelsea were to lose the services of Hazard this season, Pedro’s influence on the team increases immensely. Plus, his experience as a winger at the top level for years on years can only help the development of young Callum Hudson-Odoi.
No Hazard, no fun
Chelsea are simply not the same without the Belgium. Maurizio Sarri said before the game that he didn’t want Hazard to play 90 minutes of football due to fatigue but how his team needed him.
They lacked any sense of creativity and real attacking threat. His influence on the game was instantly recognisable after half and hour of play. Without being directly involved in the scoreline, the lift in the belief of the rest of his players - and fear in the opposing players - was there for all to see.