London: Olivier Giroud ended his drought by scoring the only goal to lead Chelsea to a 1-0 win at BATE Borisov on Thursday that clinched a place in the knockout stage of the Europa League with two group games to spare.
Giroud had not scored for Chelsea for six months but he knows what it’s like to net against BATE. Last season, the France forward was on target in both games against the Belarusian champions when he played for London rivals Arsenal in Europe’s second tier competition.
Arsenal also made it through after a 0-0 home draw against Sporting marred by Danny Welbeck’s injury. The England striker was carried off on a stretcher after appearing to sustain a serious ankle problem. He needed to receive oxygen before he was taken to hospital.
Zurich reached the next stage, together with Bayer Leverkusen, after the German side won their encounter 1-0. Eintracht Frankfurt beat Apollon Limassol 3-2 to advance, while Lazio beat Marseille 2-1 to march into the next round and eliminate last year’s runners-up.
Dinamo Zagreb were another team to progress to the knockout phase after the fourth round of matches. Ten-man Sevilla won 3-2 at Akhisar thanks to a late penalty, but Anderlecht’s hopes of going through are over.
Emerson Palmieri crossed from the left in the 53rd minute and Giroud stooped to head in for Chelsea. The France striker was playing against BATE instead of Alvaro Morata, who was rested.
‘I’m pleased for him,” manager Maurizio Sarri said of Giroud. “He’s a very important player for us, very useful for the team, but I know very well that strikers want to score, and so for his confidence it’s very important.
“BATE played very well. They were unlucky and could have drawn the match.”
The win extended Chelsea’s unbeaten streak this season to 17 games, but the London club were given several scares as BATE hit the woodwork three times.
Chelsea top Group L with a maximum 12 points. Hungary’s Vidi are second on six points after a 1-0 victory over PAOK.
Arsenal were held to a 0-0 home draw by Sporting, who had Jeremy Mathieu sent off for a professional foul on substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang three minutes from the end.
Aubameyang, who replaced the injured Welbeck in the 30th minute, missed a string of scoring chances.
“Danny’s looked like a serious injury, which is not nice to see,” Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech said. “Our thoughts are with him.”
Arsenal top Group E with 10 points, three ahead of Sporting. Qarabag joined Vorskla on three points after winning their match 1-0.