Callum Hudson-Odoi Steals The Show in Comfortable Chelsea Victory
The Blues were already certain of top spot in Group L after BATE Borisov had beaten Mol Vidi 2-0 earlier in the evening.
PAOK were dealt a decisive blow early on as defender Yevhen Khacheridi was given his marching orders after hacking down Olivier Giroud, therefore handing Chelsea a huge advantage with only seven minutes gone. It seemed as if it was simply a matter of when, and not if, Chelsea would break the deadlock.
Pressure was mounting on the PAOK goal with Chelsea being denied by keeper Alexandros Paschalakis. The Greek stopper was finally beaten after 27 minutes. Some great work by Pedro set up Giroud to fire home his third goal in three games.
Chelsea had control of the game, comfortably setting the pace of proceedings to suit them. Callum Hudson-Odoi went close to a first senior goal as he clipped the bar with a fine effort. However, it wasn’t long until The Blues added a second – a fabulous pass from Cesc Fabregas into the box found Giroud who met the ball brilliantly with a first-time volley low to the keeper’s right-hand side. Half-time couldn’t come quick enough for PAOK and they were relieved to go in at the break only two goals down.
Chelsea had coasted through the first-half untroubled as PAOK counted the cost of the early red card. The Greeks did come out with more impetuous after the break though. Amr Warda, introduced for the second-half, looked to cause Chelsea problems as he showed fight and energy as PAOK attempted to find a way back into the game.
On the hour mark the game was put firmly to bed. Hudson-Odoi found a bit of space, and struck the ball firmly between two defenders, inside the keeper’s near post. It was magical moment for the 18-year-old and one he will always cherish.
Chelsea continued to dominate, with chances falling to Giroud, who went close to completing a hat-trick, and David Zappacosta, who struck a long-range effort just wide.
Another goal did arrive after Giroud was replaced with a quarter of an hour left by Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard took little time to make an impact as he headed home a teasing cross from the impressive Hudson-Odoi.
A Step in The Right Direction
Callum Hudson-Odoi showed he has the quality to stake a claim for more first-team action. The youngster shone in pre-season, but has found opportunities few and far between. Tonight he delivered.
Overall it was a comfortable win for The Blues at Stamford Bridge. In truth, it was a night that didn’t really challenged them. Confidence is the main winner from tonight. Maurizio Sarri will go into Sunday’s West-London derby with Fulham feeling his squad has depth, and he will be extremely pleased by tonight’s reaction.