Chelsea were forced to come from behind as they finished their Europa League Group L campaign with a 2-2 away at Vidi on Thursday evening.
Willian opened the scoring for the Blues but an own goal from Ethan Ampadu and a Loic Nego volley meant Olivier Giroud had to rescue a late point. Maurizio Sarri fielded a strong side once again in Europe as Cesc Fabregas captained the side whilst George McEachran, brother of Josh, was involved in the squad for the first time.
The game started in a way that many wouldn’t have expected with both sides looking to get forward at every opportunity but neither had the cutting edge to open the scoring early on. However, with just under 30 minutes on the clock, Willian won a dubious free-kick 25 yards out and did what he does best by curling it past Ádám Kovácsik and into the back of the net.
That lead didn’t last long, 100 seconds in fact as the underdogs hit back instantly. Vidi sent a corner towards the front post where it was flicked on by Georgi Milanov. As Ampadu, who was making his first start of the season, attempted to head it clear, he could only hook into his own net. The two sides went into the break deservedly level and Alvaro Morata was replaced by Giroud on the stroke of half time.
The second period started similarly to the first with neither team able to create a clear chance despite seeing a lot of the ball in the final third. Although, a moment of magic from the Hungarian champions saw them take the lead for the first time just before the hour mark. Some neat passing in the middle park allowed Milanov to get down the wing and aim a cross towards the back post where Nego brilliantly thumped a volley past a helpless Willy Caballero.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, who was moved out to left wing after Pedro’s introduction from the bench, grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and began to make more of an impact. First, he saw a decent strike well saved before being involved in some great build-up play that led to Giroud failing to turn home from a matter of yards.
That opportunity was the first of many for Chelsea as they showed the gulf in class hunting for the equaliser. It didn’t take long to find it and it was another free-kick that delivered the blow, this time from a very unlikely source: Giroud. Some would argue that this one was much better than Willian’s as it clipped the underside of the bar on its way in. A Vidi defender had actually sprinted towards the goal line to keep it out but it flew over his head.
Both sides seemed relatively happy to play out the draw and that’s exactly how the contest finished. Chelsea had already secured top spot in Group L and they now look ahead to a hectic festive schedule starting with a trip to Brighton on Sunday.