Five wins out of five for the Blues in our Europa League group stage and this one was with the biggest margin of victory yet. Top spot in the table is assured.
In the build-up to this match against our opponents from Greece, Maurizio Sarri said he had the quality in his squad to win this game even if he made a huge number of changes to the line-up, and so it proved.
Olivier Giroud scored for a third Chelsea game running for the first time, netting with both his left foot and his right foot to give his side a 2-0 half-time lead. PAOK had been reduced to 10 men for a foul on our centre-forward with the game still 0-0.
With Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings and Ruben Loftus-Cheek bringing the best out of the PAOK goalkeeper, further goals were always on the cards. It was Callum Hudson-Odoi, just turned 18 at the start of the month, who made it 3-0 having earlier struck the woodwork, and in doing so scored his first Chelsea goal. He then became provider for substitute Alvaro Morata to nod in number four.
MOL Vidi’s failure shortly before our game to win away at BATE Borisov had removed the major challenge of the night at Stamford Bridge. Rather than still needing a point to top our group, we were already guaranteed the prime position before kick-off against PAOK.
Sarri had to hand his team sheet in before knowing that and he had made 10 changes to the side which started our first defeat at the weekend since the Premier League season began.
Among those selected were Hudson-Odoi for his first start since the Community Shield and Andreas Christensen for his 50th Chelsea appearance.
PAOK’s situation had been improved by the BATE-Vidi result but ideally they needed points from tonight’s game, but their hope of taking any was massively hit by such an early sending-off.
Before that major moment in the game, Pedro and Hudson-Odoi had sent over a couple of crosses to test the Greeks but then on seven minutes came the big blow. A loose pass by PAOK back towards their penalty area and Giroud was onto it. However Yevhen Khacheridi took him down just outside the box and the Estonian referee deemed it an obvious goalscoring chance denied. Straight red card!
Fabregas had the chance to extend the advantage from the free-kick but fired low and wide. We would need to wait another 20 minutes to make the man advantage count. Prior to his opening goal and soon after the sending-off, Giroud, in open play and found by a Hudson-Odoi chip, sent the ball over the bar from a difficult position before our Academy product had a chance himself but he curled wide.
With 19 minutes on the clock, the Blues constructed our best passage of play so far. Fabregas and Pedro moved the ball on quickly through a tight area and Loftus-Cheek thumped it with curl at the target. It was tipped wide by a diving Alexandros Paschalakis. Gary Cahill, selected in what has become a familiar back-four for this competition, met the corner but headed past the post.
The Blues continued to probe away, primarily down the left, but were crowded out there inside the box. No need to worry, we would score from the other side of the penalty area instead!
Fabregas started the attack with a typical lofted pinpoint pass from deep. Pedro was the recipient and he patiently set-up Giroud to sweep home from an angle. 1-0 with 26 minutes on the clock.
Hudson-Odoi was only the width of the crossbar away from making it 2-0 a minute later with an even better strike.
Giroud’s second goal came 10 minutes after his first. Fabregas was again involved as the Frenchman timed his run behind the defence to perfection. The ball arrived near the left-hand post and Giroud finished first time and skilfully on the volley.
A goalmouth clearance then prevented Pedro bagging our third.
There had been little for the defence to do back in our box but Cahill made a timely sliding challenge when Leo Jaba threatened to go all the way with a run from his own half before the interval.
Loftus-Cheek was denied again by another good save by the keeper early in the second half after a tremendous run by the England man, but it was non-stop pressure by the home side. PAOK cracked for a third time on the hour and Hudson-Odoi’s goal tally for Chelsea was up and running.
Fabregas, almost inevitably, was the supply line and rather than going for the far post as he had done with his earlier attempts, Hudson-Odoi targeted just inside the near stick this time and found the keeper wanting.
That was from the left-hand side of the penalty area but later popping up on the right, Hudson-Odoi floated over a near-post cross for Morata to head in with a freshly shorn crown and make it 4-0, just three minutes after he had replaced Giroud.
Sarri had watched the reaction to the Spurs result he wanted tonight but as he made clear, he wants more of the same back here at the Bridge on Sunday, when neighbours Fulham pay us a visit.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Zappacosta (Ampadu 63), Christensen, Cahill (c), Emerson; Barkley, Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek; Pedro (Willian 67), Giroud (Morata 75), Hudson-Odoi.
Unused subs Caballero, Alonso, Jorginho, Kovacic.
Scorers Giroud 27, 37, Hudson-Odoi 60, Morata 78
Booked Cahill 54
PAOK (4-2-3-1): Paschalakis; Matos, Khacheridi, Crespo, Vieirinha (c); Mauricio (Pelkas 78), Wernbloom; Jaba, Shakov, El Kaddouri (Varela 75), Prijovic (Warda h-t).
Unused subs Rey, Bisewar, Akpom, Canas.
Sent off Khacheridi 7
Booked Wernbloom 49, Pelkas 79
Referee Kristo Tohver from Estonia.