Chelsea put on a commanding display in their Europa League opener against PAOK, but only came away from Stadio Toumbas with a 1-0 victory on Thursday.
- PAOK 0 Chelsea 1
- Willian (7′) beats Paschalakis from close range
- Morata misses hat-trick of first-half chances
- Paschalakis denies Pedro before half-time
- Pedro and Giroud test Paschalakis after break
Maurizio Sarri’s side got off to a flying start when Willian opened the scoring on seven minutes, but they couldn’t put the game to bed despite bossing proceedings in front of a partizan home crowd.
Still plenty of noise inside Toumba Stadium but the Blues are coping well in a difficult atmosphere!
Last 15 minutes now… COME ON CHELSEA! 🙌
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 20 September 2018
Sarri selected a strong team and they looked in the mood, creating a whole host of chances after breaking the deadlock just seven minutes in.
Ross Barkley surged through midfield and slipped Willian into space on the left, with the Brazilian holding his nerve to slot past Alexandros Paschalakis from 14 yards out.
Alvaro Morata could have scored a hat-trick in the first half, but struggled in front of goal and headed wide at the near post from Pedro’s cross on the right with his first chance of the evening on 10 minutes.
PAOK had a sniff at goal two minutes later as a towering Vieirinha headed a corner well over the crossbar, before Morata wasted another glorious opportunity on 19 minutes when he controlled Antonio Rudiger’s ball over the top and fired wide of the far post from eight yards out on the left.
The Spanish striker threatened again eight minutes later with a shot from 14 yards out that flew over the bar after receiving a square pass from Willian and shifting the ball onto his left foot.
A swift counter from the visitors almost led to a second goal on 38 minutes when Marcos Alonso threaded a pass through to Pedro on the right, but Paschalakis raced out to deny the Spanish winger from eight yards out.
Morata missed the target again from the resulting corner as he steered a header wide at the back post.
The Blues continued to dominate after the restart and Willian forced Paschalakis into a save on 49 minutes, before he blazed over on the volley from 14 yards out eight minutes later after Barkley’s initial header struck Morata.
Alonso did well to fashion an opening on 62 minutes as he collected the ball inside the box on the left and cut back onto his right foot before seeing his shot deflected just wide of the near post by Yevhen Khacheridi.
Pedro only had one thing on his mind in the 72nd minute when he cut in from the left and looked for the right corner with a curler from the edge of the box that was punched away by Paschalakis.
Willian then drilled a left-footed shot wide of the right post from 19 yards out after finding a pocket of pace on 77 minutes, while Pedro failed to test Paschalakis with a wayward strike from 22 yards out six minutes from time.
Kepa was finally called into action moments later, although Diego Biseswar’s tame shot from 16 yards out from the left provided a routine save for the visiting keeper.
The action quickly switched to the other end as substitute Olivier Giroud drew a diving save out of Paschalakis with a low shot from 20 yards out, but the second goal never came and the English club won by a solitary goal.