Callum Hudson-Odoi toasted his full Premier League debut by sparking Chelsea’s 3-0 Stamford Bridge rout of Brighton.
The 18-year-old celebrated his full league bow by serving the opening goal on a plate for Olivier Giroud, before Eden Hazard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek dispatched eye-catching second-half strikes.
Hazard’s 14th league goal of the campaign and Loftus-Cheek’s eighth in all competitions pushed Chelsea above Manchester United into fifth place, but one point off Tottenham in third.
Chelsea’s hefty win might now convince boss Maurizio Sarri to let homegrown talents Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek loose in the bid for both a top-four league finish and Europa League glory.
Sarri has defended Hudson-Odoi making his full England debut before his first Premier League start, with the forward impressing on international duty last month.
But even the Italian knew that elusive league start had to come soon for a talent so highly-rated that the Chelsea hierarchy are itching to build their future around.
Three goals, three points.— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 3, 2019
Hudson-Odoi wasted precious little time proving his class on the night in an industrious showing that yielded an assist and plenty of glimpses of his huge potential.
While Chelsea were lucky to snatch that 2-1 win at Cardiff at the weekend, there was simply no fortune in this clinical victory.
Chelsea needed time to break down Brighton’s double-banked defensive set-up and, while at times flailing at fluency, the Blues still bossed the first-half.
Hudson-Odoi quickly set about justifying his start, not that he needed to.
The teenager’s early strike would have definitely troubled Seagulls keeper Mat Ryan but for a deflection over the bar about which Shane Duffy knew precious little.
N’Golo Kante saw a penalty shout rightly rejected after going to ground under little pressure from Gaetan Bong, but then Hudson-Odoi grabbed the game by the throat.
Hazard’s cute backheel carved the space, and the England starlet whipped an inviting low cross, only for Giroud to see his effort rebuffed.
Then the 18-year-old stood up another right-wing ball, this time with captain Cesar Azpilicueta unable to hit the target.
Florin Andone fluffed Brighton’s sole chance of the half in a stark reminder to the hosts not to switch off, the Romania forward scuffing wide after Yves Bissouma had skinned Azpilicueta all ends up.
Hazard blasted over after Giroud forced Duffy into a poor clearing header, in another big chance wasted.
But then Hudson-Odoi surfaced again on the right, turning Anthony Knockaert inside out before drilling a low near-post cross that begged to be converted.
Giroud duly bundled in, cementing the home side’s dominance.
Hudson-Odoi might even have bagged a goal before the break too, only for his excitement to get the better of him.
Hazard’s lofted ball into the box evaded Kante and dropped teasingly on the inside right, with Hudson-Odoi racing in at pace – only to end up crumpled in a heap after flashing a boot at fresh air.
Chelsea only extended their control after the break, Hazard leaving Lewis Dunk sliding into the distance before whipping home from 18 yards.
And then Loftus-Cheek chipped in from the same distance, steadying himself before delivering a sumptuous finish.
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