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Europa League: Giroud scores hat trick in Chelsea rout

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With a three-goal lead heading to Ukraine, Chelsea just needed to manage a strong, defensive result at the minimum to advance. The Blues did that and then some.

Olivier Giroud continued his incredible UEFA Europa League goalscoring exploits, scoring a hat trick as Chelsea routed Dynamo Kiev, 5-0 on Thursday afternoon. The hat trick takes Giroud to nine goals in as many games. Despite his success in Europe, he has just one Premier League goal this season, and has struggled to get starting minutes in league matches.

[READ: JPW’s Premier League Picks]

Either way, it’s a convincing win for a Chelsea team that looked on the verge of being coachless just a few weeks ago, and is now into the Europa League quarterfinals.

Callum Hudson-Odoi bolstered his claims to start with a goal and an assist while Marcos Alonso scored Chelsea’s third of the day just before halftime.

Giroud needed just four and a half minutes to put Chelsea on top and the game out of reach, with a close-range finish off a corner kick. In the 33rd minute, Alonso’s terrific cross from the left was slotted home with a first-time strike in the box by Giroud.

He would get his third goal off a free kick from Willian, sending a glancing header towards the far post and in in the 59th minute.

Chelsea pummels Dynamo Kiev 3-0 in Europa League

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Pedro got the party started in the 17th minute, and Chelsea never looked back as they grabbed a 3-0 first leg lead over Dynamo Kiev in Europa League play on Thursday.

After Arsenal fell to Stade Rennais earlier in the day, the Premier League needed a Europa League champion and the Blues were just that. They beat Dynamo into submission, finishing with 60% of possession and topping the Ukranian side 8-0 in shots on target.

Pedro’s opener came on an absolutely stunning feed from Olivier Giroud as the Frenchman back-heeled the ball through the legs of Artem Shabanov. With Chelsea in front, they proved relentless as the match went on.

The second came on a free-kick from Willian in the 65th minute, finding the top-left corner with a delivery over the top of the wall, as Dynamo goalkeeper Denys Boyko was rooted to the spot. The goal for Willian mirrored the Brazilian’s free-kick he deposited in 2015 against Dynamo in Champions League play.

To finish things off, Callum Hudson-Odoi completed the scoreline in the 90th minute, an important goal that will give Maurizio Sarri the ability to take his foot off the gas pedal a bit in the second leg. It began on a long-ball by Pedro from near the halfway line on the right flank, finding a streaking Ruben Loftus-Cheek down the middle. He tapped beautifully to Hudson-Odoi crossing behind, and his finish tucked inside the far post.

The second leg takes place next Thursday in Kiev, and while the Blues already enjoy a healthy lead, even one away goal would almost surely finish it off barring an absolute defensive nightmare on the road.

Higuain completes loan move to Chelsea, with option to buy

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Gonzalo Higuain is officially a Chelsea player after completing his loan move from seven-time defending Serie A champions Juventus — via loan to AC Milan since August — to the Premier League side on Wednesday.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: James to Spurs, Martins to Newcastle ]

The six-month loan agreement reportedly contains a clause that would allow Chelsea to sign the 31-year-old Argentine forward for a fee reported to be more than $40 million. Chelsea can also extend the loan an additional year for $20 million, according to reports.

With Alvaro Morata — who’s now expected to embark a move of his own, to Atletico Madrid — and Olivier Giroud misfiring for the fourth-place Blues, Maurizio Sarri re-emphasized this month his desire to once again work with Higuain. The two spent the 2015-16 season together at Napoli, when Higuain famously scored more goals (36) than he made appearances (35).

[ MORE: Barcelona seals capture of Frenkie De Jong for $85 million ]

Morata and Giroud have between them scored just six league goals (five from Morata) this season, and have been particularly nonexistent over the last two months as Chelsea faded from title-contending hopefuls, to only just holding on in the top-four race with Arsenal and Manchester United now just three points behind them.

Higuain will be unavailable for selection in Thursday’s League Cup semifinal second leg against Tottenham Hotspur due to his transfer being completed after midday on Wednesday. Tottenham have a slim 1-0 advantage heading to Stamford Bridge.

Higuain’s first chance at a Chelsea debut will come in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round clash with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. Chelsea return to PL action next Wednesday, when they’ll visit 12th-place Bournemouth.

LIVE, Europa League: Chelsea, Arsenal aim to clinch groups

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Both Arsenal and Chelsea are in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday, with the London clubs eager to wrap up their groups after already securing their place in the Round of 32.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores ]

The Gunners know a victory against Vorskla Poltava in Ukraine (the game has been moved to Kiev due to security concerns) could see them clinch top spot ahead of their final game of Group E against FK Qarabag.

Unai Emery made plenty of changes to his starting lineup ahead of the North London derby on Sunday, with the game kicking off at 12:55 p.m. ET.

Chelsea host PAOK Salonika at Stamford Bridge at 3 p.m. ET, and Maurizio Sarri knows a point against the Greek side will secure top spot in Group L for the Blues.

Elsewhere in the Europa League, some tasty games see Steven Gerrard‘s Glasgow Rangers host Villarreal as the Scottish giants aim to cause an upset, while Red Bull Salzburg host sister club RB Leipzig and Sevilla head to Standard Liege in a pivotal clash.

Click on the link above to follow all of the games on Thursday, while click below to check out the live group standings as the games take place.

[ MORE: Europa League standings

Super Spurs end Chelsea’s unbeaten run

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As odd as this sounds, Tottenham Hotspur was wasteful in a 3-1 demolition of Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Ascendant all afternoon, Mauricio Pochettino‘s men missed several chances to further a score line which would not have deceived anyone who watched Spurs climb over their London rivals and into third place.

Tottenham now has 30 points, five back of first, thanks to goals from Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane, and Dele Alli.

Chelsea will finish the weekend fourth, with 28 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kepa Arrizabalaga had a pair of early moments, including a collection of a ball Harry Kane nodded off the head of his marker.

It was a precursor to the opener, as Arrizabalaga could not handle Dele’s header to the back post. The effort was enough to throw off the keeper, as Christian Eriksen‘s free kick was on a similar trajectory before the turn.

Eriksen was in the richest vein of form, chipping an effort over three backs for Heung-min Son to hammer just over the frame.

Son then cooked Antonio Rudiger to force Arrizabalaga into a leg save.

Kane was shown acres of space and Arrizabalaga was nowhere to be found when Luiz moved to stop the Spurs’ man shot from hitting his backside. 2-0 after 16 minutes.

Eden Hazard sprung to life as the match reached the latter stages of the first half, forcing Hugo Lloris into a couple interventions.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

And then, my goodness, an exclamation point from Son.

The South Korean star torched Jorginho for pace, rounded the corner, and cut back David Luiz before beating Arrizabalaga low inside the far post.

Magical stuff.

Kane missed a chance to make it 4-0 in the 68th, firing an 8-yard effort well over the bar.

Chelsea substitute Olivier Giroud rose above Serge Aurier to pound a header off the ground and past Lloris in the 85th minute to ruin the clean sheet.