BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea cruised to a 4-0 victory over Greek side PAOK at Stamford Bridge tonight to maintain their 100 per cent record of five wins out of five in the Europa League group stage with youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi staring on his full Chelsea debut.
They say beware of Greek bearing gifts, but on this occasion, the early sending off of centre-back Yevhen Khacheridi was a gift too sweet to refuse.
There had been a clamour for wide-man Hudson-Odoi to start and he did not disappoint.
However he is most likely to be consigned to the bench at best on Sunday for the visit of Fulham in the Premier League. The likely outcome will be another weekend kicking his heels.
The Blues made a positive start, despite that PAOK had a great chance on four minutes but after a melee in the Chelsea six-yard box, the ball was hacked clear.
The Greeks soon found themselves down to 10 men on seven minutes when, Olivier Giroud found himself clear after a poor back pass and Khacheridi’s last-gasp trip sent the France star tumbling just outside the PAOK penalty area.
Fabregas’s low free-kick inched wide of Alexandria Paschalakis’s right post.
Giroud had two half chances in the following couple of minutes, bit going just wide of goal.
A beautiful defence-splitter by Fabregas, sent Pedro free. But the Spain midfielder lashed the ball over the crossbar.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek thought he had opened the score on 20 minutes, but his powerful left-footer from 20 yards was tipped round the post by Paschalakis. Gary Cahill saw his header from the resultant corner glance inches wide of the goal.
The goal was coming and it duly arrived on 27 minutes. Another long ball by Fabregas, found Pedro. He slotted the ball to Giroud on the right apex of the PAOK area and he cooly bent a low, curling left-footer past Paschalakis.
Callum Hudson-Odoi smacked the crossbar a minute later as the Blues looked to go on a goal rampage.
Number two came on 37 minutes with a smart, left-footed volley from a tight angle from Giroud which zipped past Paschalakis. The architect of the goal, Fabregas with yet another perfect ball over the PAOK defence.
Maurizio Sarri kept the same 11 while PAOK boss Razvan Lucescu replaced Prijovic for Amr Warda.
A sensational long run a shot by Loftus-Cheek forced a great save by Paschalakis as the Blues resumed where they left off in the first half.
And on 60 minutes it was number three.
Hudson-Odoi picked the ball up on the left and smacked a beauty of a right-footer that fooled the goalkeeper at his near post and the ball zipped into the back of the net.
It was the first Chelsea goal in the 17-year-old’s career for the Blues senior side.
Welsh star, Ethan Ampadu came on for David’s Zappacosta two minutes later.
He was quickly followed onto the turf by Willian for Pedro.
Then it was the turn of Alvaro Morata – on for Giroud with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Morata took minutes to register his goal, a nonchalant near post header from a Hudson-Odoi right-wing cross. He still looked miserable despite the cajoling of his team-mates.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Fabregas, Barkley, Pedro, Loftus-Cheek, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Zappacosta, Cahill, Christensen, Emerson
Subs: Caballero, Alonso, Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Morata, Ampadu
PAOK Salonika: Paschalakis, Matos, Rl Kaddouri, Mauricio, Prijovic, Crespo, Wernbloom, Vieirinha, Shakhov, Khacheridi, Jaba
Subs: Rey, Varela, Pelkas, Biseswar, Appom, Warda, Canas
Referee: Kristy Tohver (Estonia)