Chelsea 4 Juventus 0: Homegrown starlets Chalobah, James and Hudson-Odoi send dominant Blues into knockout stages
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH doesn’t need to come to Stamford Bridge to know that Chelsea are in good hands these days.
The enigmatic Russian made a rare visit to London at the weekend but was still too busy to watch the team he has bankrolled to such spectacular effect over the years.
And for all the superstar signings he has funded during his ownership, his finest investment has arguably been building the best youth academy in the business.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has already reaped the benefit of the club’s homegrown stars to win the Champions League in his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge.
And on Tuesday night it was three more of their own who secured Chelsea’s qualification for the knock-out stages – as goals from Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner saw off fallen giants Juventus.
It is now 25 years since the 36-time Italian Champions last lifted the European Cup.
And Max Allegri’s side will know just how far off the pace they are after being put to the sword by Tuchel’s young thrusters.
For though they might also be through to the knock-out stages, they are now relying on Chelsea to drop points against Zenit St Petersburg next month to stand any chance of finishing top of Group H.
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The last time these teams met in Turin two months ago, Chelsea had made the mistake of trying to play the patient game and pass their opponents to death.
But on that occasion Juventus were more than happy to let them have the ball all night, string everyone across their own box and snatch a winner on the counter with virtually their only attack of the game.
So this time Tuchel ordered his players to go for the jugular right from the start and not give the Old Lady a chance to settle.
And their gung-ho approach almost paid off in the second minute when Ben Chilwell had a swing and a miss right in front of goal.
Chalobah headed wide from James’ corner and Wojciech Szczesny had to be on his toes to prevent Christian Pulisic from converting another James cross.
But without a recognised striker in their starting line-up, Chelsea’s attacking efforts were lacking a focal point to break down the obdurate Italians.
And the longer they were unable to force the breakthrough, the more Juventus started to fancy their chances of another shut-out.
But just when it was beginning to look like another night of frustration for Tuchel and his team, Juve were finally undone by a sledgehammer bolt from the blue.
And if Chelsea are to go on and achieve all their ambitions in the coming months, they should give a serious pay rise to set-piece coach Anthony Barry.
Because no other team has proved quite so deadly from dead ball situations this season.
And even though Juve knew just how dangerous their opponents were when they could bring the big men forward, they were still powerless to avert the danger.
Not that there was anything subtle about Chelsea’s 25th minute opening goal as Hakim Ziyech’s corner bounced off Antonio Rudiger and fell perfectly for Chalobah to lash home.
Juventus argued that the ball had come off Rudiger’s arm before Chalobah struck and they certainly had a point.
Serbian ref Srdjan Jovanovic also missed Leonardo Bonucci being shoved over by Jorginho as the ball was delivered into the danger zone.
But Spanish VAR Alejandro Hernandez gave Chelsea the benefit of the doubt and suddenly the visitors had to abandon their game plan and come out of their shell.
And it took a remarkable piece of defending by the veteran Thiago Silva to deny them an instant equaliser.
Striker Alvaro Morata had been forced to endure chants of 'Chelsea reject' following his failed £60million move to Stamford Bridge four years ago.
But he thought he had silenced those taunts when he got in behind the Chelsea defence to lob the ball over advancing keeper Edouard Mendy.
Silva, though, had other ideas and raced back to hook the ball off the line to preserve his team’s precious lead.
It was as close as Juve were to come to halting Chelsea’s progress and 11 minutes after the break they were finally put out of their misery.
Chilwell’s cross was headed out by Bonucci but only as far as James, who calmly chested the ball down before thrashing an unstoppable shot beyond Szczesny.
Two minutes later James was involved again, teeing up Ruben Loftus-Cheek to slalom through the Juve defence before stepping aside for Hudson-Odoi’s emphatic finish.
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Even injuries to Chilwell and N’Golo Kante could not take the gloss off another big step forward for Tuchel and his team.
Both will be struggling to be fit for Manchester United’s visit to the Bridge on Sunday, but Chelsea know they have more than enough to cope.
Chelsea then crowned their night in style with as Werner met Ziyech’s cross for a fourth goal, with James producing a spectacular long pass in the build-up.
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