Chelsea shook off their recent troubles and easily advanced in the Europa League with a 3-0 second leg victory over 10-man Malmo on Thursday, a result that takes some pressure off embattled coach Maurizio Sarri.
After a scoreless first half, Olivier Giroud tapped in a cross from Willian in the 55th minute before Ross Barkley made it 2-0 from a free kick. Callum Hudson-Odoi finished it off in the 84th, with Willian setting up his goal as well.
Giroud and Barkley also scored in a 2-1 victory in the first leg, with Chelsea advancing to the round of 16 with a 4-1 win on aggregate.
The result provides some relief for Sarri, the Italian coach who was subjected to abuse from Chelsea supporters after the side’s FA Cup loss to Manchester United at home on Monday.
On Sunday, Chelsea plays the League Cup final against Manchester City and then faces a Premier League meeting with crosstown rival Tottenham — two games that could yet determine whether Sarri’s stay at Stamford Bridge will be over before his first season ends.
Sarri’s position was already being called into question after the 6-0 loss at City in the Premier League on Feb. 10. Even worse, the team dropped to sixth in the Premier League in recent weeks and is out of the top 4 Champions League places.
On Thursday, Chelsea looked in control but couldn’t find a breakthrough until Giroud netted in the 55th.
Malmo defender Rasmus Bengtsson was sent off after picking his second yellow card in the 73rd, giving Barkley a chance to score from the subsequent free kick a minute later. Hudson-Odoi collected Willian’s perfect cross six minutes from time before surging forward to fire a low shot into the net.
Earlier Thursday, Arsenal rebounded from a 1-0 loss to BATE Borisov a week ago with a comprehensive 3-0 second-leg victory.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang forced an early own goal before center backs Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos added one apiece for Arsenal to advance 3-1 on aggregate.
Italian clubs Napoli and Inter also had no problems to make the next phase while last year’s semifinalist Salzburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, Valencia, Villarreal, Dinamo Zagreb, Zenit, Benfica, Kiev, Rennes, Krasnodar and Slavia Prague all made it through.
Former champion Sevilla advanced after knocking out Lazio on Wednesday.
The draw for the last 16 is scheduled for Friday.
Here’s a look at Thursday’s games:
Arsenal manager Unai Emery made three changes to the starting lineup he used last week in Belarus, bringing on playmaker Mesut Ozil and defender Stephan Lichtsteiner while Aubameyang replaced suspended French forward Alexandre Lacazette.
Those changes paid off.
Aubameyang needed just four minutes to create the opener. He broke down the right before his cross hit defender Zakhar Volkov, who diverted the ball past goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski.
Lichtsteiner made his presence felt when he saved on the goal line minutes later.
Mustafi headed home the second from Granit Xhaka’s corner six minutes before interval.
Papastathopoulos scored with another header on the hour mark, just four minutes after coming from the bench as substitute to replace injured captain Laurent Koscielny.
Aleksandr Hleb, who played for Arsenal from 2005-08, came on as substitute in the 58th and was applauded by the home fans at the Emirates Stadium.
NO MORE DRAWS
After four consecutive draws in all competitions — including 2-2 at Shakhtar Donetsk last week in the first leg — Eintracht Frankfurt celebrated a 4-1 victory and advance 6-3 overall.
Forward Luka Jovic scored his sixth European League goal this season for a 1-0 lead in the 23rd. It was 2-0 just four minutes later after Sebastien Haller converted from the penalty spot. Haller added his second and substitute Ante Rebic also scored late in the game.
Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti made it two wins from his first two games in the Europa League with a 2-0 home victory over Zurich.
After a 3-1 away win in Switzerland last week, Napoli easily advanced 5-1 on aggregate.
Forwards Simone Verdi and Adam Ounas scored in each half at the Stadio San Paolo.
Inter advanced after eliminating Austrian club Rapid Vienna 5-0 on aggregate after winning the second leg 4-0 in Rome.
Rennes made the next round 6-4 overall after a 3-1 away win at Real Betis.
Slavia Prague knocked out Genk after coming from a goal down to win 4-1 in Belgium. The two drew 1-1 in the first leg in Prague.
Dynamo Kiev advanced with a 1-0 win at home over Olympiakos following a 2-2 draw in the first leg.
A scoreless draw with Galatasaray was enough for Benfica to get through due to a 2-1 away win in Turkey.
Russia’s Krasnodar advanced on the away goals rule after a 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen.
Patson Daka netted twice and Xaver Schlager and Munas Dabbur added one each for Salzburg to beat Club Brugge 4-0 and advance 5-2 on aggregate.
Valencia went through 3-0 on aggregate after beating Celtic 1-0 at home.
Dinamo Zagreb routed Viktoria Plzen 3-0 for a result that overturned a 2-1 loss in the first leg.
Two goals from Sardar Azmoun helped Zenit St. Petersburg overcome Fenerbahce 3-1 to make it through 3-2 overall.
Pablo Fornals scored 10 minutes from time for Villarreal to draw 1-1 in the second leg against Sporting Lisbon, enough to advance after winning 1-0 in the first leg.