Su­per sub be­comes the main at­trac­tion

Daily Mail - - Premier League - RIATH AL-SAMARRAI at Stam­ford Bridge

THE SKY did not fall, the Thames did not run dry and vol­ca­noes did not rise from the pitch. In­deed, Cal­lum Hud­son-Odoi (be­low) was given a Premier League start by Mau­r­izio Sarri and the world did not end. Who knows ex­actly what Sarri’s fear has been all this time? He’s tried to ex­plain it all be­fore, of course, go­ing over the the­o­ries of care­ful de­vel­op­ment and how next sea­son it will be dif­fer­ent. But the per­sis­tent thought last night was the same one that has cropped up re­peat­edly on the lesser oc­ca­sions of the cups — that this guy needs to play. Give him a chance, stop the heel-kick­ing on the bench and let him loose in a com­pe­ti­tion that mat­ters. Then watch this 18-year-old go. And how he went. The best player on the pitch? Pos­si­bly. He cer­tainly was in the first half. Just ask An­thony Knock­aert, who was sub­sti­tuted in to the game in the 31st minute and im­me­di­ately looked ready to sit back down, all be­cause of a player who needed to wait un­til April to be trusted with a league start. The same trick did for Knock­aert twice in about 10 min­utes — the body leaned left, the feet went right and rapid from there to the by­line for a cross. In the first in­stance, he made a good chance for Ce­sar Azpilicuet­a and in the se­cond he made the opener for Olivier Giroud. If this team can look pre­dictable un­der Sarri for its ten­dency to chan­nel so much through Jorginho, then it was a de­light­ful an­ti­dote to see Hud­son-Odoi on the ball. But there was far more — in one de­fen­sive con­tri­bu­tion he stopped Solly March and later he pulled off a great slide to rob Yves Bis­souma. He was good all round, but that lock-pick­ing in at­tack is the lure to folk like Bay­ern Mu­nich. On that front, how telling that in a game against deep-ly­ing op­po­si­tion, with 11 Brighton men be­hind the ball, it was Hud­son-Odoi who broke the back­line. There were some er­rors, ob­vi­ously. It most def­i­nitely wasn’t a clear demon­stra­tion of why he should be in this side for ev­ery game. But no one is ar­gu­ing for that, just that this academy player gets a good chance. Cer­tainly it hasn’t helped Sarri’s case with the fans that it has taken this long. Even be­fore you fac­tor in his winger’s per­for­mance here, in­clud­ing Hud­son-Odoi in the team was good PR. The Stam­ford Bridge sup­port have used the teenager’s con­tin­ued ab­sence as an­other stick with which to beat the man­ager, and in one se­lec­tion for this game he helped stem a nar­ra­tive. As a strong-willed man­ager, that was hardly a press­ing re­quire­ment in his mind. But it is a bonus none­the­less, as is the be­lated proof that Hud­son-Odoi is up to the task in the Premier League.

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