Jorginho showed his true worth to keep Chelsea’s Europa League dream alive in Frankfurt, according to team-mate Cesar Azpilicueta.
The Italy midfielder is the fulcrum of Maurizio Sarri’s tactical blueprint and often the focal point of supporter frustration amid the taskmaster manager’s mixed first season at the Chelsea helm.
But at the Commerzbank Arena on Thursday Jorginho had the Blues’ midfield all wrapped up, even when patched up himself due to a bandaged head wound.
And that left Chelsea skipper Azpilicueta purring over Jorginho’s influence, as Pedro’s strike secured a 1-1 semi-final first leg draw with Eintracht and a potentially crucial away goal.
“Jorginho is a very important player for us,” said Azpilicueta.
“Sometimes all of us have struggled because when the results are not there it means we’re not doing the perfect job.
“But this is his first season in England, first time at a new club.
“This was an important game for him. He grew into the game by getting more control, creating more space for the two attacking midfielders where he could find them in very dangerous positions.
“We can see that every time we find him and give him more space he can create that pass and move forward. It also meant we (defenders) could enjoy more space in front of us.”
Luka Jovic headed Eintracht into an early lead in front of a fervent crowd, but Chelsea rallied from a poor start to end the night frustrated only to have drawn.
Jorginho’s measured performance laid the platform for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to run riot, and the 23-year-old duly teed up Pedro for a crisp finish.
Chelsea will now chase a win against Watford on Sunday to boost their chances of a top-four Premier League finish, in their final home league game of the season.
Then Sarri’s men will host Eintracht in Thursday’s return leg, with the Blues now hopeful of completing the job and reaching the final.
Spain forward Pedro capped an industrious night with Chelsea’s vital away goal, leaving Azpilicueta hailing the 31-year-old’s desire.
Pedro boasts every major trophy going in a stellar career – barring the Europa League – and Azpilicueta insisted his drive to complete the clean sweep is infectious.
“With the career he had in Barcelona, the titles he won for Barcelona and for Spain, he’s still hungry to get more; I think this mentality is very important,” said Azpilicueta.
“His hunger to keep winning is very important for the team. Even if he has won the Champions League a few times, World Cup, European Cup, he wants to win every competition.
“The Europa League is a competition he has never won and you can see that he has a special motivation.
“He has played a lot of games in the competition, he has scored a lot of goals and hopefully he can score a few more.”