Goals from Pedro, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi ensured a comprehensive victory for Chelsea over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Europa League Round of 16 encounter – their third win on the bounce in all competitions.
It was highly vital for Chelsea to come out there and score goals in order to head into the reverse fixture away from home with a healthy advantage. And they did just that, by flying out of the blocks, stamping authority over the pace of play and creating ample chances.
Maurizio Sarri heavily rotated his players, but they stuck to their tasks to engineer a fine and confidence-boosting win ahead of a tough run of fixtures.
Chelsea were great throughout the match and should have scored at least two more goals, owing to the big slew of chances that came their way. Apart from one or two major threats, the Ukrainian giants barely troubled Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal.
On that note, let’s take a look at the major talking points from Chelsea’s 3-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev.
#1 Sarri names an interesting starting XI
Earlier in his press conference, Sarri had laid down hints of a possible rotated squad for this fixture. But there was more to it than one thought.
First things first, Kepa retained his place in the starting line-up. Many thought for the Europa League game at least, Willy Caballero would get his spot between the sticks, especially after an inspiring performance in goal against bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Sarri however, had other ideas as he stuck by his ‘number one’ goalkeeper.
Skipper Cesar Azpilicueta, who has been used as a machine over the last couple of months, was given a necessitous break, which meant Davide Zappacosta, who has barely kicked a ball in recent months, started down the right side of the back-four. David Luiz wore the armband for the evening, while Antonio Rudiger sat out.
Andreas Christensen manned the heart of defence alongside Luiz, whereas Marcos Alonso returned at left-back.
Jorginho held the pivot at central midfield for Chelsea, while both Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley started on either side, thereby giving the omnipresent N’Golo Kante a breather. Pedro and Willian filled the flanks, with Olivier Giroud leading the line once again in the Europa League.
Thankfully for Sarri, Eden Hazard was not needed at any moment.
#2 Chelsea start brightly, open the scoring through Pedro
As envisaged by many, Chelsea moulded into shape quickly and began to dictate play. And it was the captain for the evening – Luiz – who led the charge. The Brazilian was at his accurate best when it came to picking the diagonals, as in the space of 15 minutes or so, he found the Chelsea wingers nearly four times.
The domination was to such a massive extent that in the first seven minutes, the away side had only managed to thread five passes. Chelsea meanwhile, continued to carve out openings but failed to inject a killer’s instinct in their game.
And the sustained pressure was destined to break Dynamo Kiev’s bubble as Pedro broke the deadlock with a sublime interchange of play with Giroud.
The Spaniard received the ball on the left-hand side, teased the opposition defenders while making way into the box and squeezed it through to Giroud, who held it up and dismantled the opponent’s configuration with a beautiful back-flick, with Pedro finishing from close.
#3 Chelsea should have put the game to bed before the end of the first half
Pedro‘s goal wasn’t even close to an end of chances as Chelsea produced moments after moments in front of goal.
Just a couple of minutes after the opener, Zappacosta found space and freedom down the right. The Italian rightfully cut it back, and the ball eventually evaded a couple of white shirts and fell to Pedro. The former Barcelona man stuck a left foot from close range, but the ball went straight into the gloves of Denys Boyko.
Moments later, Barkley heavily threatened with his movement and sting as he charged down the channel to get on the end of a Kovacic through-ball. He latched onto the shot from left, but the Kiev custodian kept the scoreline to just 1-0.
Chelsea had a penalty appeal through Pedro before the winger once again tested Boyko in the 36th minute. He was all over Dynamo Kiev in the opening 45 minutes.
#4 Willian and Hudson-Odoi cap off a dominant display for Chelsea
Chelsea were in cruise control of the game, but the tension was building and stirring around Stamford Bridge as the hosts pressed for more goals. Chances went begging in the first half, and the tempo after the break was no different either.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who came on just after the hour mark, won a free-kick in a dangerous area. Willian and Luiz stood tall over it, but it was the former who took responsibility. And boy, what an effort it was!
Willian fine-tuned his free-kick to perfection so much so that Boyko didn’t even move an inch. Chelsea continued to dominate and create chances, but it was a goal made in the academy that extended their lead. Once again, Pedro sprayed a pass from right to left, with Loftus-Cheek was making a run.
The England international unselfishly pulled it back for his fellow academy graduate Hudson-Odoi to slot it home as the Chelsea supporters continuously chanted his name.
Time will tell how crucial this third goal could be for Chelsea.
#5 It’s high time Ruben Loftus-Cheek starts matches for Chelsea
A lot of the Blues’ supporters might still be ruing over the fact that Hudson-Odoi has only managed 16 appearances with none of them being a start in the Premier League, but it’s time for the Englishman to get his chances in the Chelsea midfield.
Willian and Pedro have a couple of years left in them, and Hudson-Odoi still has a lot to learn in the defensive phases of the game. But what about Loftus-Cheek? He has been around for three years now. He has got World Cup experience under his belt, he has got a European hat-trick to his name and he has got better technical ability than a Ross Barkley or a Mateo Kovacic.
He’s 23 years of age. That’s certainly not an age where managers spoon-feed players on the training ground.
And speaking of Barkley – the Englishman has shown promise in bits and pieces this season. On an overall note, he has been decent, but there’s got to be more when you’re playing for the Chelsea badge.
Kovacic meanwhile, has been safe as a house. He has provided the goods for Sarri, but with Loftus-Cheek, there’s a bit more dynamism involved