Ruben Loftus-Cheek steals the show, Willian also impresses as Chelsea cruise
LONDON -- Chelsea put themselves on the brink of qualification for the Europa League knockout stages with a comprehensive 3-1 win over BATE Borisov, as many of Maurizio Sarri's fringe players made the most of rare starts and Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a first career hat trick from midfield.
This was comfortably the most memorable match of Loftus-Cheek's senior career and his most encouraging night in a Chelsea shirt. The assured performances of many others also underlined that it is not just Sarri's strongest XI who are adapting well to his system and ideas in these first few months of his tenure.
BATE provided very little in the way of resistance at either end of the pitch until their consolation goal, and yet Olivier Giroud's threat remained virtually nonexistent. Against better opponents than this Chelsea will not be able to depend solely on incisive wing play and midfield ambition for scoring.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Sarri made eight changes with the "65-hour" recovery time before Burnley on Sunday in mind, and yet Chelsea's performance was tactically and technically seamless. The system continues to create chances without an elite No. 9, and there was even time for a long-awaited Callum Hudson-Odoi cameo.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating.)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- A glorified spectator for most of the evening, he patrolled his area calmly, used the ball sensibly and made a few routine saves with minimal fuss. Could do nothing about BATE's consolation strike.
DF Davide Zappacosta, 7 -- Never shy of getting forward, he provided the low cross for Loftus-Cheek's first goal and his adventures helped pin BATE back throughout the evening, though a better opponent would have exploited the space he often left behind him.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- This wasn't really the game to stake his claim to displace David Luiz but he easily dealt with Nikolai Signevich and kept Chelsea's possession ticking over. His first senior Chelsea goal remains elusive after he somehow failed to poke a dangerous Willian corner over the line in the first half.
DF Gary Cahill, 7 -- Had pretty much nothing to do from a defensive point of view but carried a threat from attacking set pieces, flicking on one Willian corner to create a glorious chance for Christensen.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Chelsea supporters' frustration with his inability -- or is it unwillingness? -- to shoot is growing by the game, even if everything else about him is remarkably solid. Final-third contributions are what have taken Ross Barkley above him in the midfield pecking order, and he did nothing here to change Sarri's mind.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 5 -- Uncharacteristically careless with his passing in the first half, exposing Chelsea's back four to potentially dangerous counter-attacks on several occasions. Was inches away from finding Pedro with one trademark quarterback pass, but this wasn't his best night.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 9 -- No player is more desperate to impress Sarri, and his hat trick and powerful running from midfield certainly caught the eye. The Italian remains unconvinced by his tactical awareness though, and numerous individual chats at breaks in play suggested that particular issue may continue to limit his chances in the games that matter.
FW Pedro Rodriguez, 7 -- Seemed more frustrated than most by his failure to get in on the scoring but he combined well with Willian and Giroud, and one dangerous driving run in the second half inadvertently set up Loftus-Cheek to complete his hat trick.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- Sarri has an unenviable choice up front. Alvaro Morata appears mired in an endless confidence crisis but Giroud is still waiting to open his goal account for the season. More worrying is that, until Denis Scherbitski parried away one shot deep into the second half, he didn't even get a sniff.
FW Willian, 8 -- A technical level above everyone else on the pitch. His dribbling and close control were breathtaking at times, and his set-piece deliveries were more dangerous than usual, creating Loftus-Cheek's second goal. He ran rings around BATE for 57 minutes before Victor Moses replaced him.
FW Victor Moses, 6 -- Brought on for Willian in the 57th minute, his first touch was inconsistent and he couldn't find an end product to match his running.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 6 -- Understandably excited by his first senior minutes of the season, he tried a little too much on the ball, but Stamford Bridge was delighted just to see him for the first time since he eviscerated Arsenal's Hector Bellerin in a friendly back in August.
MF N'Golo Kante N/R -- Provided fresh legs for Kovacic with the game long since won.