MX23RW : Tuesday, February 19 05:31:16

Result: Early Willian goal sees Chelsea beat PAOK in Europa League

An early goal from Willian earns Chelsea a 1-0 victory over PAOK in Thursday's clash in the Europa League.

Chelsea have started their Europa League campaign with a 1-0 victory over PAOK in Thursday's clash in the Europa League.

An early goal from Willian proved to be the difference as Chelsea outclassed their hosts, but their joy was dampened after Pedro sustained what appeared to be an arm injury during added-on time.

Chelsea showed little nerves in the hostile atmosphere at the Toumba Stadium from the opening whistle, and it took the Blues less than seven minutes to go ahead.

Willian celebrates his opener during the Europa League group game between PAOK and Chelsea on September 20, 2018© Reuters

Ross Barkley - making his fourth start of the campaign - stormed through the middle before laying the ball off to Willian, who managed to force a shot under Alexandros Paschalakis from 10 yards out.

Chelsea continued to look for goals and Alvaro Morata should have doubled his side's lead within three minutes, only to head wide of the near post after meeting Pedro's cross.

The forward then drilled a low effort from an acute angle marginally wide of the far post, while Andreas Christensen should have done better at the back post after meeting a corner.

Pedro was the next player to squander an opening after the half-hour mark with the winger latching onto a superb through-ball from Marcos Alonso, but Paschalakis remained big to prevent the Spaniard from finding the far corner.

Ross Barkley and Yevhen Khacheridi in action during the Europa League group game between PAOK and Chelsea on September 20, 2018© Reuters

Chelsea continued to control the pace of the game after the restart and a second goal should have arrived in the 49th minute when Pedro and Barkley combined to tee up Willian, but the playmaker's shot was poor and too close to Paschalakis.

Willian was guilty again just before the hour mark, with a volley being sliced over the crossbar from 12 yards after good work from Pedro on the right.

Alonso was getting forward with regularity, and in the 61st minute the left-back cut back onto his weaker right foot before seeing a shot deflected marginally wide of the post.

PAOK were offering nothing in the final third, but Chelsea's frustrations continued at the other end as Pedro was superbly denied with an acrobatic save from Paschalakis when his shot appeared destined for the top corner.

Maurizio Sarri reacts during the Europa League group game between PAOK and Chelsea on September 20, 2018© Reuters

Diego Biseswar was introduced by the home side as the game entered the closing 10 minutes, and the Dutchman soon warmed the hands of Kepa Arrizabalaga with a well-struck shot from inside of the penalty area.

Chelsea went back up the other end and threatened through substitute Olivier Giroud, who saw a low effort tipped wide by Paschalakis, but the West Londoners were happy to make do with the solitary goal as they began their Europa League campaign in style.

However, in added-on time, Pedro collided with Paschalakis after being fouled outside the box, and the Spaniard could be set for a few weeks on the sidelines with an arm injury.

PAOK (4-3-3): Paschalakis; Vierinha, Khacheridi, Varela, Tosca; Mauricio, Shakhov (Prijovic 69'), Wernbloom; Jaba (Biseswar 82'), El Kaddouri, Pelkas (Warda 62')

CHELSEA (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Zappacosta, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso (Azpilicueta 66'); Jorginho (Fabregas 65'), Kante, Barkley; Willian, Pedro, Morata (Morata 81')

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Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring for Chelsea on September 23, 2017
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City27212474205465
2Liverpool26205159154465
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs26200654252960
4Manchester UnitedMan Utd26156552351751
5Arsenal26155653371650
6Chelsea26155645291650
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2611693433139
8Watford2610793434037
9Everton2796123639-333
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2696113239-733
11Bournemouth26103133747-1033
12Leicester CityLeicester2695123134-332
13Crystal Palace2676132734-727
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2676132839-1127
15Burnley2676132947-1827
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2667132234-1225
17Cardiff CityCardiff2674152447-2325
18Southampton2659122844-1624
19Fulham2645172558-3317
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2625191448-3411

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