Chelsea extended their Europa League winning run to five games with a convincing 4-0 victory against PAOK, who played over 80 minutes with 10 men.
An Olivier Giroud double followed by Callum Hudson-Odoi’s first Blues goal secured the points before Alvaro Morata came off the bench and scored a fourth. Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off after just seven minutes for the visitors which left them with far too much to do.
Red Card Makes it Easy for Hosts
Maurizio Sarri opted for 10 changes as his side had already secured passage to the next round and Hudson-Odoi was brought in for his first start. After a few good attacking endeavours from Chelsea, Giroud was scythed down by Khacheridi as he ran through on goal. It left the referee with no option other than to send him for an early bath.
Pedro had a few sightings of goal as PAOK failed to get out of their half in the opening 15 minutes but his efforts were either blocked or over the crossbar. The Greek side did begin to attack when they had the ball but were limited to a few very hopeful long shots that didn’t test Kepa. His opposite number was called into action just moments later as he had to be at full-stretch to keep out Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s brilliant strike from 25 yards.
However, the goal inevitably came just before the half an hour mark. A searching Cesc Fabregas pass over the top of the PAOK defence was brought down beautifully by Pedro who twisted and turned before finding the feet of Giroud. The former Arsenal striker made no mistake with the finish, curling a low strike past Alexandros Paschalakis and into the bottom corner.
Hudson-Odoi came within an inch of opening his Blues account but was denied by the paintwork of the bar just seconds before Chelsea’s lead was doubled. Another wonderful lofted ball from Fabregas picked out the intelligent run of Giroud and he managed to squeeze his volley inside the near post to double Chelsea’s advantage before half time.
Plain Sailing and a First Chelsea Goal
The Blues came out after the break the way they went in as they continued to totally dominate proceedings. Loftus-Cheek forced another great save before Davide Zappacosta came close to adding to the comfortable lead with a 30 yarder that went narrowly over. Then Hudson-Odoi enjoyed a moment he’ll never forget.
The 18-year-old collected the ball out on the left and ran directly into the box before firing a low shot into the near post with the keeper expecting him to go the other way. It was a great goal that his performances in Europe have certainly warranted.
With just over 10 minutes left on the clock, the game was put even further out of sight than it already was. Morata, who had replaced two-goal Giroud, met an inviting Hudson-Odoi cross and powered it past the PAOK stopper into the top corner. Buoyed from a goal and an assist, the Blues’ talented academy product tried for another goal but this time it was far too high to cause any problems.
From there, it was just a matter of keeping the ball for Sarri’s men and they go into the final group game with 15 points from five games, a record matched by very few other teams.
Up next is derby day, as Claudio Ranieri returns to Stamford Bridge with his new Fulham side, who are in high spirits after their win last week.