London: Chelsea routed PAOK 4-0 to clinch the top spot in Europa League Group L, thanks to a brace by Olivier Giroud and goals by Callum Hudson-Odoi and Alvaro Morata.
The first-placed Blues led MOL Vidi by six points prior to the day’s action and would have needed a point at Stamford Bridge to clinch the first place on Thursday had the Hungarian side gone on the road and defeated BATE Borisov, reports Efe news.
Vidi instead lost 2-0 to the Belarusian team (six points), a result that caused it to fall from second place to third in the group (based on head-to-head points).
Even so, Chelsea seemed motivated to put on a show for its home fans and scored twice before halftime after PAOK centre back Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off for taking Giroud to the ground just outside the penalty box in the seventh minute.
The French forward later made the score 1-0 in the 27th minute when he curved a left-footed shot into the corner of the goal off a pass from Pedro.
He then completed his brace 10 minutes later when he received a perfect long-range pass from Cesc Fabregas and volleyed a shot just inside the near post past goalie Alexandros Paschalakis.
Hudson-Odoi, who was making his first start at Stamford Bridge, extended Chelsea’s lead to 3-0 at the one-hour mark with a shot that snuck inside the near post.
Morata then put the finishing touch on the rout in the 78th minute when he headed home a pass from Hudson Odoi.
With the win, first-placed Chelsea (15 points) is perfect through five of its six group-stage matches in the Europa League, Europe’s second-tier club soccer tournament.
The other berth in the 32-team Europa League knockout stage from Group L will be determined based on the results of two contests on Dec. 13: PAOK-BATE Borisov and MOL Vidi-Chelsea.