Chelsea have continued their resurgence under coach Maurizio Sarri by putting one foot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a dominant 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev at Stamford Bridge.
Sarri’s side made it three wins in nine days thanks to goals from Pedro, Willian and substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi, but should be taking a far greater aggregate lead to Ukraine for next week’s return match.
The Blues squandered a host of chances in the first leg of the last-16 tie as Dynamo goalkeeper Denys Boyko produced an inspired display, while Pedro had a strong penalty appeal turned down.
Due to Chelsea playing their eighth game in 26 days, manager Sarri said at his pre-match press conference that he planned to rotate his squad.
Yet, facing a limited team with only one fit striker and an ultra-defensive formation, the hosts were in complete control from start to finish and opened the scoring after just 17 minutes through Pedro.
The Spanish winger was proving to be increasingly influential in the match and was then denied a strong penalty appeal in the 30th minute after being barged over in the box by Dynamo’s Tomasz Kedziora.
It was Sarri’s substitutions which eventually inspired the overdue additional goals, starting with the second in the 65th minute.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was fouled on the edge of the box and Willian, formerly of Dynamo’s rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, brilliantly curled the resultant set-piece into the top left corner with Denys Boyko rooted to the spot.
Loftus-Cheek was then released by a superb pass from Pedro in the final minute and he backheeled into the path of Hudson-Odoi, allowing the 18-year-old forward to emphatically smash home.
Sarri accepted his team should have secured a greater aggregate lead but was satisfied to prevent Kiev grabbing an away goal.
“We have to be careful. We have to play the second leg and go there with a very good level of attention and application,” the Italian said.
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