There were goals and assists for our Blues in action on the international stage this evening...
Hakim Ziyech continued his dazzling form with two goals and an assist for Morocco in Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. The 27-year-old started in a central attacking role for the Atlas Lions in Casablanca and it was in that position he found a pocket of space to help break the deadlock after just 10 minutes.
Picking up possession on the half-turn, he had time to assess his options and threaded a perfect pass forward that dissected the Central Africa defence. Inter’s Achraf Hakimi was the beneficiary, tucking his finish inside the near post to give Morocco an early lead.
After conceding an equaliser, Ziyech came to the fore with two goals in as many minutes. His first came from the penalty spot, a powerful effort that the goalkeeper got hands to but couldn’t keep out.
Moments later, after exchanging passes from a short corner, the forward whipped in a fizzing low effort with that trusty left foot that flew all the way in from the right flank. He was withdrawn for the final 18 minutes with the score 4-1, which is how it finished, leaving Morocco top of the qualification group at the halfway point.
Over 3,000km away in Wolverhampton, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Conor Gallagher started for England Under-21s as they continued their qualification campaign for next summer’s European Championship finals.
The young Lions had sealed their place at the tournament last month but were looking for a slice of revenge against Andorra, who held them to a surprise 3-3 draw in the earlier group meeting between the two sides.
The Chelsea representatives were heavily involved in the action, Hudson-Odoi switching flanks frequently with Burnley’s Dwight McNeil, and Gallagher offering energy in a box-to-box midfield role.
It was the former who provided the assist for the game’s opening goal as the 20-year-old’s teasing inswinging cross from the left wing was perfectly placed for Liverpool’s Curtis Jones, who could hardly miss from close range.
Gallagher was at fault for the Andorran equaliser as he was penalised for a soft challenge that resulted in a penalty on the stroke of half-time, but Aidy Boothroyd’s side responded after the break as Ben Wilmot’s header restored the lead.
With Jonathan Panzo, Tariq Lamptey, Eddie Nketiah and Jamal Musiala all seeing minutes, as well as Brewster, there was a heavy presence of Chelsea Academy graduates on show.
A push on Sheffield United forward Rhian Brewster saw another spot-kick awarded after 65 minutes and Hudson-Odoi stepped up, firing the ball confidently into the top corner away from the goalkeeper’s dive.
Hudson-Odoi was replaced after 73 minutes, while Gallagher featured throughout at Molineux, as England Under-21s moved onto 25 points at the top of qualification group three. Their final qualifier takes place against Albania on Tuesday. The tournament will take part in two parts, with the group stage getting underway in late March.