Ruben Loftus-Cheek was the hero on Thursday night as his first career hat-trick inspired Chelsea to a 3-1 Europa League victory over BATE Borisov.
The Blues maintained their 100% start to their European campaign thanks to the Englishman’s treble before a consolation goal from Aleksey Rios reduced the arrears for the Belarusian outfit.
It took the hosts little under two minutes to open the scoring after a persistent run down the right from Davide Zappacosta saw him pull the ball back towards the penalty spot. Loftus-Cheek was the beneficiary of the pass as he hammered into the back of the net for his first of the season.
It only took the youngster six minutes to double his tally for the campaign. He got ahead of his marker at a corner and met Willian’s cross by poking it inside the far post, there would have certainly been some claims of a penalty had the ball not nestled in the bottom corner.
Andreas Christensen almost became the second Chelsea academy product to get himself on the scoresheet minutes later as a corner that had been flicked on at the front post found its way to him at the back post but he somehow failed to prod home. BATE actually enjoyed some decent possession but struggled to do anything useful with the ball faced with a strong Blues backline.
The first half ended at a much slower pace with the hosts unsurprisingly on top of proceedings. Loftus-Cheek had a half chance to complete his hat-trick before the break but his header bounced wide. Although, he only needed nine second-half minutes to secure the match ball. Pedro’s driving run was halted by a strong tackle and as the ball ran for his 22-year-old team-mate, he got his third goal with a curling strike which found the far corner perfectly.
Zappacosta nearly improved the scoreline further halfway into the second period but his powerful 25-yard effort was well kept out by Denis Shcherbitski in the BATE goal. His next save was even better as he made a point-blank stop following Olivier Giroud’s turn and shot from no more than eight yards.
The visitors had a fantastic chance to reduce the deficit after some patient build-up play led to Maksim Volodko being picked out inside the box but his low volley was well saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, it turned out it was offside anyway. The Belarusian league leaders didn’t have to wait much longer to get their goal.
Some poor Chelsea marking meant Rios was completely open at the back post where we had the easiest of finishes to cap off a positive attacking display from the minnows.
Other than Loftus-Cheek almost adding his fourth goal of the game, the match finished exactly how Maurizio Sarri would have wanted (except for the goal conceded). His side travel to Turf Moor on Sunday to face Burnley which is definitely a game that should produce three points for the Blues.