For the watching Gareth Southgate and his England assistant Steve Holland, another young pretender to add to the growing cast of starlets.
Callum Hudson-Odoi may only be 18 years old and the opponents, admittedly, were porous after being reduced to 10 men inside seven minutes, but this remained a performance to remember from a teenager who formed an integral part of England’s Under 17 World Cup triumph last year.
The winger had previously been limited to only 35 minutes of Europa League action this season and has not appeared in the Premier League or Carabao Cup. His slow progress has frustrated fans and the pressure on Sarri to hand more opportunities to the player will only grow after this display.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga 6; Zappacosta 6.5 (Ampadu 63, 6), Christensen 6, Cahill 6, Emerson 6.5; Barkley 6, Fabregas 7.5, Loftus-Cheek 7; Pedro 7 (William 66, 6) Giroud 8 (Morata 75, 6) Hudson-Odoi 7.5
Subs not used: Caballero, Alonso, Jorginho, Kovacic
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7
Scorers: Giroud (27, 37), Hudson-Odoi (60), Morata (78)
PAOK (4-2-3-1): Paschalakis 7, Matos 5, Khacheridi 3, Crespo 6, Vieirinha 6; Mauricio 6 (Pelkas 78), Wernbloom 5, Jaba 5, Shakhov 5.5, El Kaddouri 5.5 (Varela 75, 6), Prijovic 5 (Warda 46, 5.5)
Subs not used: Rey, Biseswar, Akpom, Canas
Manager: Razvan Lucescu 6
Booked: Wernbloom, Pelkas
Sent off: Khacheridi (6)
Referee: Kristo Tohver 7
The teenager possess speed, end product and vision. A wonderful disguised pass released Olivier Giroud, who skewed over. Hudson-Odoi, whose contract expires in 18 months and has interest from Barcelona and Bayern Munich, had his crowning moment in the second half, adding to Giroud’s first-half brace as he sized up a defender and directed a low strike inside the bottom corner.
His manager, however, urged improvement if Hudson-Odoi wants to become one of the best players in Europe.
Sarri said: ‘He played very well, but the type of match was for his characteristics. But I want to see him in matches where we also need him in the defensive phase.
‘I don’t know if he is able for the Premier League at 18, especially in a big team. If he (was) already ready now to make a difference in the team like Chelsea (in the Premier League), then he would be the best player in Europe in two years.’
The teenager’s performance gave significance to an otherwise meaningless game, as Chelsea had already sealed top spot in their group before the match kicked off.
After the angst of last weekend’s demolition by Tottenham, this was the perfect remedy for Sarri. A routine victory, two goals to continue Giroud’s renaissance in form and there was even a late one for Alvaro Morata.
Sarri had demanded a reaction but made 10 outfield changes and any semblance of a contest evaporated after only seven minutes when Yevhen Khacheridi’s lunge denied Giroud and the defender received a straight red card. PAOK are top of the Greek Super League, dropping only two points in 11 matches this season but their continental performance has been dreadful, with only three points in the group stage.
A man up from the seventh minute, Chelsea peppered the Greek goal in search of an opener. Fabregas fired a free-kick wide, Giroud’s attempt at a backheel flailed and Pedro then struck over when through on goal. Ruben Loftus-Cheek glided through midfield and his soaring strike was wonderfully tipped away by Alexandre Paschalakis.
The breakthrough came after 27 minutes, when Pedro teed up Giroud to stroke his fourth goal in five games for club and country. Fabregas was in his element, dictating the match at will and his scooped chip picked out Giroud once more and the Frenchman athletically volleyed in at the near post.
As Morata lingers in his surly malaise — even his goal was greeted by a snarl rather than a smile — Giroud must be impatient for a first Premier League start since early October. Sarri, however, suggested he would stand by Morata against Fulham on Sunday.
Chelsea briefly became ragged at the start of the second period, as Emerson Palmieri was fortunate not to concede a penalty for a clumsy challenge on Amr Warda.
The revival did not last long, as Loftus-Cheek extended that mighty gallop once more, powering past defenders and forcing Paschalakis into a second fine parry. Hudson-Odoi then added the third before crossing precisely for Morata to nod in the fourth.
Chelsea 4-0 PAOK FC: Press conference with Maurizio Sarri