Last night’s brace against PAOK means it’s now four goals in his last three Chelsea appearances for Olivier Giroud, who says the team’s sights are firmly set on winning the Europa League following our 4-0 win over the Greek side.
With qualification for the next round – and first place in the group – already secured going into last night’s game, the pressure was off, and when Giroud was brought down by Yevhen Khacheridi early on, leading to a dismissal for the PAOK defender, it was clear the visitors were going to be in for a long night.
Giroud got the ball rolling with a superb left-footed finish following good work from Pedro, and 10 minutes later he extended our advantage with a brilliant volley after being picked out by Cesc Fabregas’s inch-perfect pass. Second-half goals from Callum Hudson-Odoi and Alvaro Morata compounded PAOK’s misery.
‘Yes, that was the main target,’ said Giroud, when asked about the importance of bouncing back from last weekend’s defeat to Tottenham.
‘We needed a strong team reaction and we did that well. I’m really happy with the team cohesion, team spirit and now we can start some new momentum.
‘I’ve scored goals in the past but it’s true that I was waiting for more chances, and a bit more luck, in front of goal. I’ve been working hard and training for that.
‘I love that ball in behind the defence and Cesc knows how to give it in a good tempo and rhythm. I’m very happy, I just finished off the good work from the team. We scored four goals and kept a clean sheet so all in all it was a good night for us.’
In his post-match press conference, Maurizio Sarri spoke about both forwards scoring, and Giroud is currently in a rich vein of form in front of goal having also netted for France during the recent international break.
‘I was waiting for an opportunity to score the third one but obviously for a striker it’s massive to score goals,’ he said. ‘From the beginning of the season I assisted my team-mates a few times, I like to set up goals as well, but there is nothing better than scoring goals for a striker. Now I need to keep going and keep that momentum.
‘When the manager puts me in the starting 11, or even when I come off the bench, I always try to bring something to the team and play my part. I received great balls so I feel good. Sometimes as a striker when you’re struggling to score, the goal seems a bit smaller, so you need a bit of luck for the confidence. I’m feeling very good and I hope I can keep going in this good form and keep the momentum.’
On only his second start for the club, 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi impressed, striking the bar with a long-range effort in the first half before scoring, and providing the assist for Morata’s goal, after the break.
‘He’s a very young, talented player and he deserved to score and get an assist as well,’ Giroud said.
‘I’m very pleased for him. He has many years in front of him. It’s not easy for him but when the manager puts him on the pitch it’s nice for him to be efficient and play his part. We have some very young, talented players. Ethan Ampadu came on as well so we have a squad with quality and quantity.’
The Blues have now taken maximum points from our five Europa League fixtures, scoring 10 goals in the process and conceding just once which, according to Giroud, indicates our determination to succeed in the competition.
‘The target is to win the Europa League,’ said the striker. ‘We are paying big attention to it and we’ve played in a very serious way. We respect all of our opponents and the best way for us to respect them is to kill the game when we can, and that’s what we did.
‘We needed the win, we wanted to finish the group unbeaten and we need to win one more game. The target of finishing first has been reached, we want to win this competition so it’s good for the confidence.’