Chelsea are 1-0 up in their penultimate Champions League group game after dominating the first half away at Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
Chelsea were vulnerable in the 2nd minute as Maccabi missed a good chance when Peretz headed over the bar from a Ben Haim cross. Good play from Hazard and Oscar at the other end of the pitch put in Azpilicueta, marauding forward from right back, for Chelsea’s first sight on goal but the Spain international could only curl the ball wide from inside the box.
It was clear from the opening minutes that this would be a game where the away side had the bulk of the possession with the home trying to catch their more affluent opponents on the counter attack. Baba and Azpilicueta frequently got forward as the attacking central players dominated the pace of the game, but couldn’t fashion any clear chances on Rajkovic’s goal in the first 20 minutes. Fabregas tried to chip the Serbian ‘keeper on 19 minutes but put the ball over the bar.
It didn’t take long thereafter for Chelsea’s pressure to pay off. An out swinging corner from Willian was met by Gary Cahill, whose header was pushed onto the post by Rajkovic with the England international following up the rebound with a firm finish into the centre of the goal.
Chelsea’s dominance was only given greater impetus by scoring first. Great build up play from those that have let their team down for most of this season very nearly cut open Maccabi again- Costa not being able to finish from inside the box with the Israeli side defending desperately at times. Costa had an overhead kick that almost found the top corner as Chelsea proved their infinite superiority to their hosts with attack after attack on the Maccabi goal.
Chelsea’s technical advantage became a numerical one five minutes before the break as former Chelsea defender Tal Ben-Haim was given a straight red card for a wild kick at Costa’s standing leg. Ben-Haim, who played for Chelsea close to a decade ago, didn’t complain in the slightest as he was sent off as he probably expecting it.
It has been a very good first half showing from Chelsea and with the man advantage, as well as Maccabi’s general impotence going forward, it should be two wins in a row for the first time since September. The Blues should seek to secure the three points as quickly as possible in the second half and then to add to the goal difference so that finishing top of the group is a realistic possibility going into the last first round game in a fortnight.
MACCABI TEL AVIV: Rajkovic, Dasa, Ben Haim, Garcia Badias, Ben Harush, Igiebor, Alberman, Peretz, Ben Haim, Zahavi, Rikan.
Subs: Lifshitz, Ben Basat, Itzhaki, Azulay, Tibi, Mitrovic, Vermouth.
Manager: Slavisa Jokanovic
Red Cards: Ben-Haim (40)
CHELSEA: Begovic; Baba, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Matic; Willian, Oscar, Fabregas, Hazard; Diego Costa.
Subs: Blackman, Ivanovic, Zouma, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Remy.
Manager: José Mourinho
Scorers: Cahill (20)
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP)
Venue: Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel.