SEVILLA 0 CHELSEA 4 (Giroud 8, 54, 75, pen 83)
Olivier Giroud showed why he is a manager’s dream by scoring four goals, including a perfect hat-trick, to put Chelsea in an ideal position to mount a real challenge for the Champions League.
Giroud scored four times on a memorable night for a striker who struggles to hold down a starting spot.
The first came via his left-foot, the next with his right, and he added a header and then a penalty to sink Sevilla and ensure Chelsea will finish top of Group E, thus guaranteeing a game against one of the other group runners-up in the last 16 next spring.
How Frank Lampard loves his big French striker, who scored a late winner at Rennes a week before last night’s heroics. It was Giroud’s goalscoring form during Project Restart in the summer that went a long way to helping Chelsea finish fourth in the Premier League and qualify for this competition, and now his goals are proving invaluable as the Blues go marching into the knockout stages.
Victory in Spain also means next week’s final group game, at home to Krasnodar, has nothing riding on it, so Lampard can afford to rest his first-choice players amid a busy domestic schedule.
Yet Giroud is far from first-choice.
He was already competing with Tammy Abraham for the centre-forward position before the arrival of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig made it even harder for him to pin down a place.
Giroud has started only three games this season, and has not yet found the net in the Premier League, but his returns elsewhere have been remarkable. The 34-year-old is still scoring freely for France, and one of the reasons why a move away from Stamford Bridge was discussed earlier this year was because of his desire for regular football.
What a good move to keep him. As Lampard says, he never complains about being out of the side, and trains as well as he did as a teenager.
But it is what he does on the pitch that marks Giroud out as special. His first goal came in only the eighth minute, after a driving run from Kai Havertz, making his first start for two months during which the German suffered a bout of coronavirus.
When Havertz played the ball into Giroud, the former Arsenal striker took a touch to open up the goal, and then curled the ball into the far corner with his favoured left foot.
Chelsea were better throughout against a Sevilla side who had also sealed qualification for the last 16 by last week, and were hit by injuries, meaning rookie goalkeeper Alphonso Pastor was rushed into action after an injury in the warm up to Tomas Vaclik.
The 20-year-old had little chance with any of Giroud’s goals, though, and made one good save from Christian Pulisic, another player returning to Chelsea’s first eleven.
Pulisic shot high and wide in an erratic performance, but Chelsea always looked comfortable, especially after Giroud made it two with a crisp right-footed finish early in the second-half. Mateo Kovacic played the ball in to him, he took it past defender Diego Carlis and lifted it over Pastor into the far corner.
Goal number three was a trademark header, converting a cross from substitute Ngolo Kante, and then he made it four from the penalty spot after being bundled over by Sergi Gomez. It was only a shame there were no Chelsea fans present in the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to give Giroud the standing ovation he deserved when he was replaced by Werner in the closing minutes.
It was a job well done, not just by Giroud, but by the rest of Lampard’s men who barely had to break sweat and were never in danger of losing
But man of the match was Giroud, who is only behind Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi in terms of European goals scored since the 2018/19 season.
“It is always a great feeling to win away, a great effort from the team, and a good night for me because I scored four goals,” he said afterwards with a smile.
“I didn’t know it was called a perfect hat-trick until last year!” When it was pointed out to him that the last Chelsea player to score four times in a game was Lampard, he added: “It’s always nice to make a piece of history, and to score four goals.” Now he is hoping to make a rare Premier League start, against Leeds at the weekend, and there will at last be Chelsea fans present to see him. “It will be nice to see fans back,” he added.
Sevilla (4-3-3): Pastor 6; Navas 6 Gómez 5 Carlos 5 Vázquez 6; Gudelj 6 Rakitić 7 Rekik 6; En-Nesyri 5 Óscar 5 Idrissi 5.
Chelsea (4-2-1-3): Mendy 6; Azpilicueta 6, Rudiger 6, Christensen 6, Emerson 6; Kovacic 7, Jorginho 8; Havertz 7; Hudson-Odoi 7, Giroud 9 Pulisic 7.
Referee: Artur Dias (Portugal).