It takes some doing to silence the Toumba Stadium with its thousands of PAOK ultras singing in unison, lighting flares, setting off smoke bombs, sending out piercing whistles.
Willian, wearing the captain’s armband for the first time competitively and with Eden Hazard left at home, relished the challenge in Chelsea’s opening Europa League clash of the season.
The Brazilian broke through and scored within seven minutes, bringing a hush over a hostile atmosphere in Thessaloniki and settling any nerves in the Premier League visitors.
Willian scored early on for Chelsea with a well controlled finish as they made a bright start to their Europa League opener
The PAOK fans created an incredible atmosphere with flares being set off in the stands at kick off in Greece
Maurizio Sarri’s side carved the opposition open with ease early on and the Brazilian winger finished well
The 30-year-old opened his body up and although his shot wasn’t directed to the corner, it found its way under the keeper
PAOK (4-3-3): Paschalakis 4.5; Vierinha 4.5, Varela 5, Khacheridi 5, Tosca 5; Wernbloom 5, Mauricio 5, Shakhov 4.5 (Prijovic 69, 5.5); Jaba 5 (Biseswar 82), Pelkas 4.5 (Warda 62, 5.5), El Khaddouri 4.5
Subs (not used): Rey, Crespo, Limnios, Canas
Booked: Wernbloom, Kaddouri, Warda
Manager: Razvan Lucescu 5
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa 7; Zappacosta 7, Christensen 7, Rudiger 7, Alonso 7.5 (Azpilicueta 66, 6); Barkley 8, Jorginho 7.5 (Fabregas 65, 6), Kante 8; Willian 8.5, Morata 5.5 (Giroud 81), Pedro 7.5
Subs (not used): Caballero, Loftus-Cheek, Moses, Cahill
Scorers: Willian 7
Booked: Rudiger, Barkley
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7.5
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco 6
PAOK’s supporters soon went back to creating chaos but as Willian ran into the corner to celebrate, you could finally hear yourself think. Chelsea soaked in every second of the stillness.
The visitors won this via a single goal but could have had five, had so many chances not been wasted. By full time, the shots tally said it all – Chelsea, 22. PAOK, three.
‘We were in control of the match for 90 minutes,’ manager Maurizio Sarri said. ‘We have had a lot of opportunities.
‘I am very happy with the three points, very happy with the performance, but I am not very happy with the result. When it is time to kill the match we have to kill the match.’
Greek police officers inside the Toumba Stadium could be seen puffing on cigarettes. Chain-smoker Sarri resisted the urge to spark up, despite Chelsea’s wastefulness.
Alvaro Morata was their main culprit. The £58million striker, so shy of confidence, could have had a hat-trick within 25 minutes. Once again, it was not his night.
‘Alvaro has to gain confidence with one, two, three goals,’ Sarri said. ‘I am not able to give him confidence. I can try to help him but the confidence can only come from goals.’
While Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck handed out free packets of crisps in the away end, the home side’s supporters lit their crackers, filling the evening air with smoke.
MATCHZONE: Chelsea worked the ball from front to back, eventually finding Willian in plenty of space in the box
Marcos Alonso guides the ball away from Leo Jaba and looks to get Chelsea on the front foot in the first half
Despite seeing their side fall behind early on, the PAOK fans continued to create a brilliant atmosphere at Toumba Stadium
Sarri directed his Chelsea players from the technical area after they made the perfect start to the game with a goal
The PAOK ultras were led in chorus by one fan in a team shirt instructing all those before him in the crowd
The Greek side delivered a hugely impressive display on the sidelines but failed to match up to it on the pitch
Ivan Savvidis, the PAOK president, is banned from football after the Russian walked on to the pitch with a handgun six months ago. He was upset his team had been disallowed a late goal.
Because of Savvidis’ actions, PAOK started the season on minus two points, though they went into this clash with Chelsea having won three from three. Their ultras were confident.
Unfortunately for them, so was Willian, who came close to leaving Chelsea in the summer after being left so unhappy under Antonio Conte. Handed the captain’s armband by Sarri in the absence of Hazard and the benched Cesar Azpilicueta, he did not disappoint.
Ross Barkley drove at PAOK’s defence after a cute through-ball by Jorginho and noticed Willian to his left. The Brazilian struck a low shot and scored under goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis.
Antonio Rudiger judges the bounce of the ball as he looks to control and relieve pressure for his side
Ross Barkley bursts away from Mauricio but the PAOK man sends the former Everton midfielder tumbling
Moments later, it should have been 2-0, though Morata showed why Sarri is beginning to prefer Olivier Giroud in the Premier League. Pedro crossed and the Spaniard sent a free header wide.
Missing the target became a theme of the first half for Morata. He did everything right, except find a finish.
There were unfortunate scenes at the death when Pedro collided with Paschalakis. He left the field having seemingly dislocated a shoulder.
That was one downside to Chelsea’s first Europa League clash since winning the competition in 2013. The upside is they escaped Thessaloniki with a win, showing their class in combative circumstances.
N’golo Kante worked tirelessly as ever in midfield but didn’t have too much work to do defensively in the game
There was an ugly collision between Pedro and PAOK’s goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis right at the end of the game
The Spaniard appeared to have dislocated his shoulder and that was the one black mark on an otherwise successful night