After the dismal display against Spurs last weekend, there was only one direction Chelsea could go. And they took it. Up, up and away, a rejuvenated Blues team, with youngsters given the chance to shine, eclipsed their Greek rivals POAK Salonika, even if they couldn't silence their noisy fans. It helped that the Europa League
After the dismal display against Spurs last weekend, there was only one direction Chelsea could go. And they took it.
Up, up and away, a rejuvenated Blues team, with youngsters given the chance to shine, eclipsed their Greek rivals POAK Salonika, even if they couldn’t silence their noisy fans.
It helped that the Europa League group stage visitors had a man sent off for a reckless back tackle on the edge of the area after just seven minutes, but Yevhen Khacheridi’s departure for taking out Olivier Giroud probably didn’t make much difference to the outcome.
Chelsea were always favourites in this game, and although POAK showed brief glimpses of danger on the break, Kepa was hardly involved, and was pleased and relieved to keep such a straightforward clean sheet.
Urged on by Morrie Sarri who (see picture) wore another of his hats from the Chelsea store, complete with security tag, Chelsea went ahead in the 27th minute, Pedro controlling the ball on the edge of the area and feeding Giroud, who fired left-footed past the despairing Mohican-sporting keeper Alexandros Paschalakis.
Ten minutes later, with Callum Hudson-Odoi making impressive contributions down the left, Giroud got his second; another left-foot effort, this time a poked volley through the narrow angle between keeper and post after Cesc Fabregas had lofted a dream pass forward.
After the break, 10-man PAOK tried and failed to mount any serious attack, and Hudson-Odoi’s industry was rewarded with his first Chelsea goal, a superb right-foot rocket from the edge of the Greeks’ area on the hour mark.
Giroud was given nearly 40 minutes to get his hat-trick, but when it didn’t come, Alvaro Morata was brought on for a confidence-boosting quarter of an hour, and duly scored Chelsea’s fourth, a flying header from a Hudson-Odoi cross.
Hudson-Odoi, sub Ethan Ampadu, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley and Emerson all had good games, reminding Sarri that even if his regularly wheeled-out first team can’t do the business, there are players waiting in the wings who can.
Of N’Golo Kante, there was no sign; no room on the bench for the midfielder who has just signed a contract at £290,000 a week to stay at Chelsea pretty much forever.
He’ll probably start against Fulham at the Bridge on Sunday.