Olivier Giroud’s fantastic four flattens Sevilla as Chelsea claim top spot

“Everyone loves Olivier Giroud,” Jorginho said before this game and they were even more enamoured of him by the end of it. The man who scored the last-minute winner at Rennes last week got four more goals in Spain. Two delicate, classy finishes were followed by a superb header that completed a hat-trick, and then he scored a late penalty before being taken off to applause echoing around the stadium.

It had been a more enjoyable occasion than many had expected. Sure, first place was a target – a “trophy”, according to Sevilla’s sporting director – but with both sides through to the knockout stage there was little to play for, except football itself. And when it is like that, football is fun. Chelsea are too, even in the absence of their usual starters.

Frank Lampard made nine changes from the weekend but he insisted that the men coming in deserved to play, and they proved that. Besides, that was what allowed Giroud to make this his night, leaving bare-chested with the ball under his arm. Climbing the stairs behind him, the manager wore the broadest smile. “It was an amazing performance,” Lampard said. “The individual quality of all the goals was [too]. Rightly he comes off the pitch to a standing ovation and I’m delighted for him. He is the ultimate professional.”

Ultimately Chelsea were just too good for Sevilla, inflicting their first European home defeat in two years. This hurt them, even if they too had made changes: seven were planned, an eighth enforced when Tomas Vaclik pulled out after the warm-up leaving the B team goalkeeper Alfonso Pastor to start. The 20-year-old was just 30 seconds into his debut when he pushed away a sharp shot from Kai Havertz, an indication of what was to come, Christian Pulisic hitting wide soon after and Chelsea taking the lead after eight minutes.

Pulisic found Giroud, who shifted and bent a neat finish into the far corner for a goal that would prove only the beginning. Chelsea’s players appeared determined to enjoy the game and they seemed to find it easy too, Sevilla unexpectedly open. Pulisic and Havertz were a constant threat, the former denied by Pastor before Antonio Rüdiger’s header was cleared off the line. Not long after, the American bent past a post.

Sevilla had taken a step forward, though, and this was becoming a competitive game. By half-time the teams had racked up 17 shots between them. By the end the figure had climbed over 30, including Youssef En-Nesyri’s attempt to catch out Édouard Mendy from inside the centre circle and three shooting opportunities for Ivan Rakitic. Franco Vázquez, too, had a shot charged down. And all that before half-time.

Sevilla had not given up, although their resistance would not last much longer. An outrageous scooped pass from Jesús Navas saw Nemanja Gudelj start the second half with a vicious, swerving shot that flew just over. But it was Chelsea who struck soon after, effectively ending any hope for the home side, Mateo Kovacic nudging a clever ball with the outside of a foot through the gap for Giroud, inside the area. With Pastor advancing, he lifted it gently over the keeper, the ball floating into the net.

Chelsea had not finished. Giroud headed in the third to complete a perfect hat-trick – left foot, right foot, header – which still might not be enough to earn him a starting place against Leeds on Saturday. “I didn’t know until two years ago that you called it a perfect hat-trick,” he said later. “When I scored against Kyiv in the Europa League I said: ‘What do you mean?’” Only one thing was missing here and that followed late on when he added a penalty which, like the rest, was perfectly taken.

Watching the last few minutes from the stands, at the final whistle Giroud handed his shirt to En-Nesyri and was heading off up the stairs when he remembered something and turned back to go and get the matchball.