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Giroud double helps Chelsea sink PAOK and top Europa League table

By Mike Henson |BBC Sport|

Olivier Giroud scored twice as Chelsea saw off PAOK Salonika to secure top spot in Europa League Group L.

Giroud has made four Premier League starts this season, with another six appearances off the bench
Giroud has made four Premier League starts this season, with another six appearances off the bench

The Frenchman curled home from Pedro’s pass before burying a volley from Cesc Fabregas’ lofted through ball to give the hosts a two-goal lead at the break.

The Greek visitors had been down to 10 men since the seventh minute with Yevhen Khacheridi dismissed for diving in and denying Giroud a clear goal-scoring opportunity.

A depleted PAOK tired further in the second half and 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi found the net before substitute Alvaro Morata headed in the youngster’s cross with his first touch off the bench.

Chelsea play Hungarians MOL Vidi on 13 December in a final dead-rubber group game.

Chelsea fringe players come to fore

At 18 years and 22 days old, Hudson-Odoi became the youngest scorer in the Europa League since 2009

After Maurizio Sarri’s 18-match unbeaten run as new Chelsea manager came to an abrupt halt with a 3-1 defeat by Tottenham on Saturday, the Italian changed all 10 outfield players for this encounter.

It gave several fringe players a chance to stake a claim for more first-team game-time.

With Morata still not fully convincing up front, Giroud now has four goals in his last three Blues games.

The France international lacks Morata’s pace, but followed his precise first with a clever dart in behind the PAOK defence and a powerful first-time effort.

Elsewhere, Hudson-Odoi, who won the under-17 World Cup with England in 2017 and has been linked with a move to Bayern Munich, had some bright moments, the best of which was a crisp snap-shot that fizzed inside the near post for Chelsea’s third and his first for the club.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was perhaps of more interest to the watching England manager Gareth Southgate and impressed with his quick feet and incisive passing.

He was unfortunate not to add his name to the scoresheet bringing a superb save out of Alexandros Paschalakis with a fierce 20-yard effort.

Fans of the match

The away support was large and loud
The away support was large and loud

The travelling support barely stopped singing from the first whistle to the last, but the Greek league leaders were doomed from the moment that Khacheridi clumsily attempted to retrieve a loose pass and illegally blocked Giroud’s route to goal.

A man down, PAOK, who lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture in September, failed to register a shot on target.

Former England age-grade international Chuba Akpom, who joined them in the summer from Arsenal, was an unused substitute on his return to London.

Chelsea can start turning their attention to the prospect of more serious opposition with the likes of AC Milan, Lazio and Sporting Lisbon among potential draws in the knockout stages.

Man of the match – Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)

Loftus-Cheek was energetic and inventive in Chelsea's midfield, but can he force his way into Sarri's first team on a more regular basis?
Loftus-Cheek was energetic and inventive in Chelsea’s midfield, but can he force his way into Sarri’s first team on a more regular basis?

‘Cesc played very, very well’ – manager quotes

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on BT Sport: “We have to play every three days so in the future we will have to change very often. I am every happy with the performance of the young players especially.

“Cesc Fabregas played very, very well, especially in the first half. I said that in the central position of the three midfielders I prefer a very technical player like Jorginho or Cesc but N’Golo Kante has never played with me in this position, he has always played on the right of centre, he can do very well in that position.”

Blues match Spurs Europa League streak – the stats

  • Chelsea are just the second English side to win their opening five games of a Europa League group stage campaign, following Spurs in 2013-14.
  • Chelsea have won five consecutive games in European competition for the first time since November 2010.
  • Olivier Giroud netted as many goals in this game as he had in his previous 13 appearances for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (two in all competitions).
  • Olivier Giroud has scored 11 goals in his last 15 starts in European competition (three for Chelsea, eight for Arsenal).
  • Callum Hudson-Odoi (18y 22d) became the youngest player to score for an English team in the Europa League since the competitions rebranding in 2009-10.

What’s next?

Chelsea meet west London neighbours Fulham on Sunday at midday in the Premier League.