A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s trip to play away to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League.
Chelsea traveled the long distance to Ukraine this week to play Dynamo Kiev in the second leg of their Europa League tie. The Blues led 3-0 from the first leg and so already had 1 foot in the quarter finals.
Despite the healthy score line, this would not be a stroll for Maurizio Sarri and his players. The travel time, the passionate home support and an opponent who effectively had nothing to lose had the potential to cause the Londoners plenty of hardship less than 72 hours before a tough away trip to Everton on Sunday.
Sarri traveled with an almost full squad with the main absentee being striker Gonzalo Higuain, who was recovering from a fever. Otherwise the manager made 7 changes, bringing in Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso, Davide Zappacosta, Willian and Olivier Giroud, along with both youngsters, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The Blues were unbeaten in their last 5 away European matches, winning 4 of them. However, Dynamo had progressed from their last 2 Europa League knockout ties in which they had lost the first leg away from home. But this would be a very different affair.
Chelsea looked assured and in control right from the kick off and it took less than 5 minutes for any nerves to dissipate. The Blues pressed forward and earned their first corner of the night. Unusually Willian’s corner kick floated past the first defender and suddenly Giroud found the space to simply fire in Chelsea’s opener. The ease and simplicity of the goal was only matched by the poor marking and defensive aptitude of the hosts.
Chelsea had barely got out of second gear but already had an insurmountable lead in the tie. Dynamo tried to get back in to the match, but The Blues maintained possession and looked the more threatening. Their dominance was then emphasised when Giroud and then Alonso swept the visitors in to a 3-0 lead before half time.
The hosts did have a couple of spells in the second half when they came close to getting a consolation that their effort, if not their ability, probably deserved. On particular, captain Serhiy Sydorchuk hit the post from close range.
Instead, Giroud completed his hat trick with a header from another Willian corner that cleared the first defender. The French striker has clearly enjoyed his Europa League runout and proved how lethal he can be if given half a yard of space. His perfect hat trick propelled him to the top of this season’s top scorers in the competition.
All that remained was for Hudson-Odoi to put the gloss on an extremely dominant display from The Blues. The 18 year old just managed to hold off his marker and slot the ball into the goal to finish off an 8-0 aggregate score line. It was a deserved goal for a player who persevered in trying to leave his mark on the match. Having been given a full 90 minutes, he had created Alonso’s goal in the first half and was regularly a threat with his pace and skill.
The aggregate score was as emphatic as Chelsea’s dominance had been across both legs, but a fair amount of this was due to the disappointing level at which Dynamo performed. They had started the season in the Champions League where they were only beaten 3-1 by a quality Ajax side, who have progressed all the way to the quarter finals.
Dynamo are a young team who had gone toe to toe with a young Ajax side but appeared to show far too much respect to The Blues. This made Chelsea’s task easier, but they impressively made the most of it.
With a few other fancied sides falling at this hurdle and a favourable draw for Sarri’s team, expectation will slowly build on their chances in the competition. With the club’s hierarchy demands for Champions League qualification, The Blues now have a top 4 finish in the Premier League mathematically in their own hands and an achievable path through to the Europa League final in May.
Which, despite their struggles at times this season, is an enviable position to be in. The team now need to focus between now and the end of the season to achieving either, or even better, achieving both.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue