Willian's Early Goal Gives Chelsea Win Over PAOK in Europa League Opener

Chelsea remained perfect in all competitions under Maurizio Sarri with a win to open play in the Europa League.
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Chelsea continued its winning form as it beat PAOK in the Europa League thanks to Willian's well-taken strike. 

The Blues remain unbeaten against Greek opposition and are now second in their group behind BATE Borisov after the opening match of group play.

Ross Barkley's perfectly weighted pass set up Willian for Chelsea's goal, as it took the lead inside 10 minutes, after some poor goalkeeping from Alexandros Paschalakis. Chelsea was disappointed not to have led by more after Alvaro Morata missed several chances to double the lead. 

Chelsea failed to create many chances in the second half despite dominating possession and wasted the few it created as PAOK's defense kept the Blues out after the break. Here's a closer look at the match:

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Key Talking Point

POAK will be pleased that it only conceded one on the night and that it restricted Chelsea to only a few quality chances across the 90 minutes.

The hosts held their own in defense against a strong Premier League lineup, but were unable to create any chances of their own during the match.

Tempers flared due to frustration in the second half as Amr Warda clashed with Antonio Rudiger, but PAOK could not muster a goal during their final push in the closing stages.

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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Paschalakis (4); Vierinha (6), Varela (6), Khacheridi (6), Tosca (6); Mauricio (7), Wernbloom (5); Jaba (7), Shakhov (5), Kaddouri (6), Pelkas (5).

Substitutes: Warda (4), Prijovic (5), Biseswar (6)

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STAR MAN - Although PAOK rarely threatened, Leo Jaba was the only player who looked dangerous. The winger did more than just hold up the ball and managed to test Marcos Alonso until the fullback went off. 

The Brazilian will have been disappointed that he did not receive more of the ball, as he was one of a few bright sparks in the game and helped ease the pressure on his side by gaining territory.

WORST PLAYER - Paschalakis should have done better with the first goal and forced his side to change their game plan early on. The goalkeeper never looked comfortable and did not instil his back four with confidence.

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Key Talking Point

Chelsea will ultimately be left wondering how they did not score more goals. The game was kept alive by the Blues' wasteful finishing, and several key players including Pedro and Morata could have eased nerves during the final 10 minutes, when PAOK threatened most.

Ross Barkley impressed during the game and showed glimpses of the form which secured his move to Chelsea, and the former Everton man's pass opened up PAOK's defense for the goal. 

Overall, it was clear that Chelsea missed Eden Hazard's energy and skill. Willian was one of the few players able to cut through the Greek club's defense but no other player looked like they would score the all important second goal.

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Player Ratings

Starting XI: Arrizabalaga (5); Zappacosta (6), Christensen (6), Rudiger (6), Alonso (7); Kante (7), Jorginho (6), Barkley (7); Willian (8), Morata (5), Pedro (5)

Substitutes: Fabregas (5), Azpilicueta (6), Giroud (6)

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STAR MAN - Chelsea looked dangerous down Willian's wing and the Brazilian was rightly rewarded with a goal in the first half. The winger was linked with moves to Manchester United and Barcelona in the summer and the Blues will be delighted they retained his services. He made intelligent runs and also dropped into midfield to control the game.

Although the winger could have added to his tally had it not been for wasteful finishing, the 30-year-old staked his claim for a starting spot in the Premier League with another impressive performance, albeit against an opponent of poor quality. 

WORST PLAYER - Alvaro Morata wasted several chances in the first half and could have erased any concerns over the result. The Spaniard's header at the front post in particular was a chance he will be frustrated that he did not bury. Morata was not shy of effort but at times tried to force the issue and squandered chances.

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Looking Ahead

Chelsea faces a trip to West Ham next and Maurizio Sarri will be hoping that his side can continue its winning run in the Premier League. 

Having rested Hazard and other key players, the Italian will be expecting a good performance at the London Stadium as Chelsea faces a West Ham side that has been struggling for form.

PAOK faces second-place AEK Athens next and could go to the top of the Super League if results go its way. PAOK will want to bounce back and ensure that its winning streak in Greece continues on Sunday.