Chelsea’s fringe players justified their selection as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Olivier Giroud and Ruben Loftus-Cheek played crucial roles in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion.
Maurizio Sarri shuffled his pack from Sunday’s contentious 2-1 win at Cardiff City, handing Hudson-Odoi his first league start in the process, and Chelsea rarely looked like dropping points when they produced an excellent display at Stamford Bridge.
Hudson-Odoi certainly made an impact out wide, setting up Giroud with a pinpoint cross to give the dominant Blues the lead just before half-time with his first Premier League goal since November.
Eden Hazard doubled their advantage with an hour played, and Loftus-Cheek, who set up the Belgian, wrapped things up three minutes later with a gorgeous 25-yard strike, sending Chelsea above Manchester United and into fifth.
Hudson-Odoi was the first to threaten as he cut in from the right in the 11th minute and saw his left-footed strike deflected narrowly over.
An even better opportunity fell to Hazard just after the half-hour mark, but he smashed a half-volley over from just inside the area when teed up perfectly by Giroud.
Chelsea did take the lead in the 38th minute, however, as Hudson-Odoi breezed past Anthony Knockaert and played a low cross towards the near post, where Giroud glanced a fine finish in with the outside of his foot.
Hazard increased the lead in the second half, receiving Loftus-Cheek’s pass before committing Lewis Dunk and guiding a controlled finish into bottom-right corner from the edge of the area.
Loftus-Cheek went one better shortly after, his long-range effort curling into the top-right corner, leaving Mat Ryan helpless and completing a straightforward win.
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As the Premier League season enters its final stages, it can surely only be a good thing for Chelsea that their squad players look ready to rise to the occasion.
Hudson-Odoi, Giroud and Loftus-Cheek all impressed against Brighton, and that could be a timely boost in the race to finish among the top four.
Hudson-Odoi justifies the hype
Chelsea fans have been calling for Hudson-Odoi to start a Premier League for most of the season. They finally got their wish on Wednesday, and the England international did not disappoint, causing plenty of problems with his direct style and his excellent first-half cross that brought about the opener.
A long day for Bong
While he did not receive much help from Knockaert, Gaetan Bong had a torrid time against Hudson-Odoi, hardly ever getting anywhere near him.
Chelsea host West Ham in a London derby on Monday, while Brighton face Manchester City in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley two days prior.
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