Maurizio Sarri doesn’t exactly show a wide range of emotion whenever he speaks to the media, so his delight at Chelsea’s five-star performance on Thursday night in Kiev was delivered in the usual monotone post-match drone, but that shouldn’t take away from the overall quality on display. What might take away a bit from it was just how bad Dynamo Kiev were in both legs — Championship-level might be a generous assessment — but at least the Blues performed up to expectations in smashing them to smithereens.
After last week’s 3-0 first leg, the tie was almost over. If Dynamo were to have any chance of an historic comeback, they needed to start fast and aggressive in the second leg. And that is exactly what they tried ... until Olivier Giroud struck inside of five minutes and effectively ended the contest.
Sarri highlighted the importance of that goal from the man who would go on to score a perfect hat-trick (right foot, left foot, header) to lead the way into the quarterfinals.
“We started very well. We wanted to start in this way because it was important to score after the result in Stamford Bridge. We were able to score after five minutes. For the opponent it was a difficult situation. We played a very good first half. In the second we managed the result. It was a wonderful performance for 90 minutes.”
“[Giroud’s performance] was very, very good. In the last period every time he has been on the pitch he was able to play really very well. He scored nine goals in this competition. Olivier is a very important player for us. I am very happy for him and his hat-trick, and I am very happy with him.”
Chelsea are now into the last eight for tomorrow’s quarterfinal and semifinal draw. Sarri’s hoping to avoid Napoli on our side of the bracket, and save that matchup for the final on neutral ground.
“I prefer to find them in the final! First of all, because it means we are in the final and I am happy. And second because it means Napoli are in the final and I’m happy. Because of my relationship with the city and the people, for me it would be very difficult to play against them in Naples.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC
The easy games are now over in Europe as well, and although Chelsea remain one of the odds-on favorites to win the competition, none of Napoli,
Sevilla Slavia Prague(!), Valencia, Villarreal, Arsenal, Benfica, or Frankfurt will be pushovers.
But Chelsea are improving at the right time, and we’re now just five games away from a trophy and a place in next year’s Champions League.