There were routine Europa League wins for London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal on Thursday evening, showcasing plenty of young talent in the process.
Chelsea thumped Greek side PAOK 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, with the visitors having to play more than 80 minutes with ten men after centre-back Yevhen Khacheridi was dismissed.
Talented winger Callum Hudson-Odoi netted his first goal and created an assist too, on a memorable night in west London. It was the 18-year-old’s first start of the campaign, having impressed senior coaching staff during the club’s pre-season tour in Australia.
Having hit the crossbar with a strike from range in the first-half, he converted a smart finish and teed up substitute Álvaro Morata.
Smith-Rowe stars again as Emery hands out debuts
Meanwhile, Arsenal winger Emile Smith-Rowe continued his impressive form in the Gunners’ eventful Europa League campaign. Emile, four months older than Callum, had already scored in Europe this term – during their 3-0 win over Qarabag in early October.
That goal meant he was the first player born since 2000 to score for Arsenal, and the club’s youngest scorer since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2011.
He was in the right place to slot home a rebound after 19-year-old forward Edward Nketiah – making his first start – saw his effort saved by Bogdan Shust.
Joe Willock, also 19, scored with a well-taken finish for his first senior goal – having made his debut under Arsene Wenger last season.
There were debuts for left-winger Bukayo Saka (17), midfielder Charlie Gilmour (19) and centre-back Zech Medley (18), who signed scholarship terms after being released by Chelsea in 2016.
What happened elsewhere in the competition?
There were a mixture of surprising results as some groups remain finely poised ahead of matchday six in mid-December.
20-year-old winger Moussa Djenepo scored a second-half winner for Standard Liege against Sevilla – leaving both sides on nine points ahead of their final group stage games.
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers side earned a hard-fought point against Villarreal in Group G, meaning all four sides can still progress into the knockout rounds or be eliminated depending on their final result on December 13. Villarreal host Spartak Moscow, while Rangers face a trip to Austria with Rapid Vienna next.
Dynamo Kyiv, Betis, Besiktas, Salzburg, Krasnodar, Zenit, Celtic and Stade Rennais all secured slender victories – while Eintracht Frankfurt thumped Marseille 4-0 and Lazio lost away against Apollon Limassol.
Milan (5-2 against Dudelange) and Sporting (6-1 vs Qarabag) enjoyed comprehensive victories, but as the competition intensifies, who has already qualified for the last-32 in 2019?
The teams already mathematically qualified for the knockout rounds in the New Year are as follows:
Group winners – Red Bull Salzburg, Zenit, Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal, Eintracht Frankfurt, Dynamo Kyiv and Chelsea
Group runners-up – Fenerbahce, Sporting and Lazio
Qualified, but position TBD – Bayer Leverkusen, Zurich and Real Betis