Callum Hudson-Odoi sealed Chelseas 3-0 win against Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie
There was a period when this breeze of a victory served as a reminder to those clamouring for youth that Chelseas elder statesmen are far from spent forces just yet. Pedro and Willian, 30-something wingers both, whose contracts expire next year, had dismantled Dynamo Kyiv with such pace and skill that the job felt virtually complete when Maurizio Sarri, as if playing to the gallery, dispatched his tyros into the fray for the dregs of the occasion.
Yet there is simply too much about Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the current darlings of these parts, to allow even a fleeting opportunity to pass them by. With time ticking down and the advantage still somehow stalled on two, the substitutes combined. Hudson-Odoi, a scorer against Malm in the previous round, collected his teammates flick before ripping the third goal of the evening beyond Denys Boyko. The teenager was raised off his feet by Loftus-Cheek in celebration, those in the Matthew Harding stand chorusing his name once again, with Chelsea planting a foot in the quarter-finals.
It is becoming a familiar scene. Hudson-Odoi may have benefited from the runaround to which Pedro and Willian had subjected a naive and panicked Dynamo side, but he stakes a claim for greater involvement with every outing these days. The 18-year-old has now been directly involved in seven goals in his last seven games in all competitions at Stamford Bridge, and neither he nor Loftus-Cheek, his back problems eased though possibly not soon enough to return to the England squad to be named next week, will be satisfied by mere cameo appearances in this team. The hope is both at least start in Kyiv in the return.
Sarri, over recent days, has preached patience with Hudson-Odoi, a player still coveted by Bayern Munich that failed transfer request remains the elephant in the room and yet to make a Premier League start. I am convinced [in his quality], Sarri said after the game. He has nothing to do to convince me, because he is a very great player. But he still needs to improve because he will not arrive at the top of his game until he is 22 or 23, like every other player. So now I think he needs to improve without the pressure of the media, without the pressure of the fans, without the pressure of the club.
Its very dangerous, at 18, to have this pressure. You have to improve, tactically, mentally and physically, at that age. So its dangerous [to put too much pressure on him]. I dont like to speak about him for this reason. But he is in my mind for every match.