Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri revealed he battled a ‘fever’ on Thursday in Belarus and had to wrap up warm as he watched his side battle hard in the fog against BATE.
There was little action on the pitch that would have warmed the cockles but the Blues did enough to progress through to the round of 32 after Olivier Giroud headed home early in the second half.
As Sarri was no doubt keen to conclude what he described as a ‘hard day’, the Italian and assistant Gianfranco Zola were given a memento to return home with from their hosts.
BATE Borisov boss Aleksei Baga presented both Sarri and Zola with traditional fur hats – a statement piece that the former Italian banker could probably have done with pre-match to wear in the dug-out.
‘Today I was in trouble, too,’ Sarri said afterwards. ‘I had a fever. It was a very hard day for me.’
Giroud was the difference between the two sides as he used his size and strength to good effect in the air, ending his run without a goal on 52 minutes in Belarus.
Sarri praised the ‘important’ Giroud and insisted that the striker is ‘very, very useful’ for the team even when he is not among the goals.
‘I’m pleased for him (Giroud),’ Sarri said in the wake of the 1-0 win on Thursday.
‘He’s a very important player for us because he’s a very, very useful player for the team. But I know very well strikers want to score.
‘And so for his confidence, I think it’s very important. But, I don’t want him to be worried about scoring, because for us he’s very important, very useful.’
Chelsea have taken maximum points from the opening four Group L matches and can now ease their foot off the gas with qualification to the next stage secure.
The win on their travels stretches Sarri’s unbeaten run to 17 matches and next up they welcome Everton to Stamford Bridge on Remembrance Sunday.