Long gone are the days that English teams head to Ukraine and Dynamo Kiev in fear. Once a place of intimidation, strength and skill is now home to a submissive and bleak side.
Chelsea used this to full effect as they cruised to a 5-0 victory against the Ukrainian outfit. It was made easy too as the Blues endured constant spells of unchallenged possession and clever link-up play often catalysed by the power of Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Olivier Giroud continued his incredible Europa League campaign with a hat-trick which, combined with goals from Marcos Alonso and Callum Hudson Odoi, was more than enough to send Chelsea through to the quarter finals with an overwhelming aggregate score of 8-0.
Story of the Match
Prior to kick-off, Maurizio Sarri labelled the match as ‘dangerous’; Giroud’s opener inside five minutes, though, abolished any worry whatsoever. Willian, often a thorn in the side of Kiev, whipped in a dangerous ball that was flicked on by Loftus-Cheek and then onto the boot of Giroud. It was a trademark goal by the Frenchman who just so happened to be in the right place at the right time to tap in from six-yards out.
A youthful combination between Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek provided the latter with a great chance to score. The newly selected English centre midfielder forced a smart save from Denys Boyko who very quickly began to realise he was in for a tough night.
Marcos Alonso’s low cross was beyond the stretch of the Kiev defence but not the stretch of Giroud who – for the second time of the match – scored a goal that all but epitomises his way of scoring goals from inside the box.
Hudson-Odoi shone throughout the game and provided a wonderful cross to Alonso (once again showing his attacking credentials with a goal and assist) who made it three as the whistle blew for the end of the first-half.
Chelsea have struggled defensively away from home all season. This proved apparent in the second-half as Kiev played with more freedom on realising the tie was completely out of their reach. Serhiy Sydorchuk hit the post in what turned out to be Kiev’s best chance of the match.
The dust settled, though, and normal service was resumed. Normal service, of course, meaning Giroud scoring from inside the six-yard box which earned him the match ball. Another pin-point free-kick from Willian found the striker whose clever movement to the near post left him with the easiest of finishes just before the hour mark.
Chelsea didn’t stop there and made it five after 78 minutes. Giroud, at the heart of every Chelsea attack, was allowed to turn and unleash the pace of the English winger who cooly slotted past Boyko.
Giroud poses serious competition
Since Gonzalo Higuain’s announcement on the Stamford Bridge stage, Giroud has had to settle for a back-seat place on the bench as he often did at Arsenal.
Higuain didn’t travel with the squad through illness which paved the way for Chelsea’s number 18 to lead the line. He did so entirely, scoring his seventh, eighth and ninth goal of the Europa League competition; he is now the competitions top scorer.
Pitch Perfect… Not quite.
Sarri was far from shy in his pre-match talk about the state of the pitch his side would be playing on. In fact, he was pretty adamant that the pitch was not even close to the standard he and anyone would expect of a Europa League Round-of-16 match.
His players didn’t seem to mind the pitch one bit. They combated the tough surface by crossing the ball which only helped the game of Giroud.
Clean sheet… finally
The 4-0 win was Chelsea’s first clean sheet away from home in six matches and could mean everything moving forward.
Although they didn’t face much pressure, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen were solid and didn’t put a foot wrong all night. They will hope to carry this confidence into their next away match at Everton on Sunday.