Chelsea made light work of Dynamo Kiev on Thursday night as they emerged 3-0 victors, with goals from Willian, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi ensuring Maurizio Sarri’s side have a big advantage heading into the second leg in Ukraine.
All three wingers were at their sparkling best, but there was an unsung hero in the Blues ranks who allowed them to have free reign over the Dynamo defence.
Finding a striker who can make an impact in the Premier League consistently has been a problem for Sarri – the Europa League, though, is a whole different kettle of fish and Olivier Giroud is making it look like child’s play.
The Frenchman is the Blues’ European top scorer, with six to his name in eight appearances; he might not have found the net last time out but the assist he laid on for Pedro was marvellous.
Receiving the ball with his back to goal, the 87-cap international held it up while Pedro sprinted into a dangerous position and back-heeled it through the defender’s legs into the onrushing former Barca man’s path, who dispatched the chance.
The 32-year-old might not be the most prolific scorer that the Premier League has to offer, but the way he uses his physical superiority to hold up play and create chances for his teammates is surely unparalleled.
Earlier in the campaign, Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard described the number 18 as the best target man in the world after he teed up the Belgian twice in the 4-1 demolition of Cardiff in September:
“Olivier’s a target man, maybe the best in the world; I think so.
“When he gets the ball he can hold the ball and we can go in deep with him, so for us it’s a pleasure to play with him.
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The assist for Pedro was far from a fluke; it was his fifth of the season in all competitions and the hitman would undoubtedly have more if he was afforded more starts by stubborn Sarri.
How many men of Giroud’s stature can operate so tidily in such small spaces and get the best out of two wingers who have previously been pretty apathetic?