BORISOV, Belarus – A goal by France’s Olivier Giroud early in the second half was all Chelsea needed to beat BATE 1-0 on Thursday and clinch a spot in the Europa League round of 32.
The victory brings the Blues to 12 points from four matches, giving the Premier League club a virtual lock on the top spot in Group L with two games left in the first phase of the tournament.
MOL Vida, 1-0 winners Thursday over PAOK Salonika, are second with 6 points, while BATE and PAOK each have 3 points.
Chelsea were not at their best in Borisov and the teams ended the first half level at 0-0.
World Cup winner Giroud took a cross from Emerson and scored in the 52nd minute and one goal proved to be sufficient.
The outcome could have been different, however, if BATE’s Aleksey Rios hadn’t hit the post with a strike in the final minute of regulation.