Report: Chelsea 6 Qarabag 0

Pedro’s first goal of the season, Davide Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko’s first for their new club and Cesar Azpilicueta and Michy Batshuayi’s first in the Champions League, plus an own-goal, made sure the Blues’ return to European competition was smooth.

With the group stage draw having served up tough and experienced opposition to come from Spain and Italy, three points in our opener at home were imperative and from the moment Pedro scored very early on, that always looked the likely reward.

A spectacular goal from Zappacosta doubled the advantage on the half-hour with the remaining four goals coming in the second period, the first from Azpilicueta before substitute Bakayoko and Batshuayi, then the own-goal, added the shine to the accomplished performance inside the last 20 minutes.

As he had indicated in the build-up to today’s game, there was a degree of rotation deployed by Antonio Conte in his team selection.

Gary Cahill was a natural to return and there was another chance in defence between the skipper and vice-captain Azpilicueta for Andreas Christensen, who rewarded the manager’s faith with tidy work at the back on the occasions Qarabag did get up the field tonight.

Victor Moses was given a rest which meant a full Chelsea debut and first career Champions League start for Zappacosta who also made his mark. Willian and Batshuayi were the others making up five changes from Saturday’s starting side at Leicester.

One of those who began that weekend win, Marcos Alonso, was the first to warm the Qarabag keeper’s hands on a rainy night at Stamford Bridge and he had another shot blocked moments later by their captain Rashad Sadygov. The next Chelsea strike went in with the clock yet to tick onto five minutes played. 

The scorer was Pedro, from outside the area and given the amount of space that a more seasoned Champions League outfit would not have allowed. Taking Willian’s pass, the Spaniard sweetly drilled the ball past the flailing Ibrahim Sehic.

Willian and N’Golo Kante both continued to carry the attack to the Azerbaijan side with enterprising runs although the Blues were the first and only side to pick up a caution, that for a foul by Cahill inside the opposition half.   

A silky combination between Willian and Batshuayi was soon cutting a path through the Qarabag defence but the Belgian took two touches to shoot and hit the side-netting as the angle narrowed. His time would come.

Chelsea continued to look the sharper and quicker throughout the half and the ever-aware Fabregas almost threaded Kante through into the penalty area and in on goal. Instead our second of the night came from way outside the box, far over on the right of the pitch from the boot of Zappacosta. Only he will know for certain whether it was an intended shot or a cross that flew past the surprised keeper, but either way, our new signing’s approach play was superb, taking Thibaut Courtois’s roll-out and skipping past two opponents in a pacy run down the wing. 

The Italian was not far away from scoring again with a closer-range, lower strike before the interval and on the stroke of half-time, it was his ball across that was controlled by Alonso but the white-shirted defence blocked the Spaniard’s shot.

So it was a 2-0 lead for the Blues at the halfway point with Qarabag’s threat on Courtois’s goal so far limited to one strike on target, scuffed straight at him by Pedro Henrique.  

It was a crude body-check on Willian by Donald Gurrier which was the start of Chelsea’s third goal. The man shoved over played the free-kick to Fabregas who with timing and craft, curved the ball with the outside of his boot for Azpilicueta to flex his neck muscles and head into the net in a manner befitting the man he went to celebrate with, Alvaro Morata, who was warming up on the side. 

Two of the substitutes were soon introduced, Eden Hazard and Bakayoko, and it was after taking Hazard’s short pass that Willian came within a whisker of adding his name to scorers, instead thumping the crossbar.

Bakayoko did hit the target with a deflected shot on 70 minutes after Hazard had crossed and the visitors’ defence fluffed their chance to clear. Batshuayi, turning onto a Bakayoko pass and scoring from the edge of the area then made it 5-0. 

It was soon six when tired and awkward defending was pounced upon by Zappacosta who crossed for Batshuayi to ensure the ball was bundled over the line by Qarabag’s Maksim Medvedev, giving Chelsea the equal best Champions League win in our history. In Group C’s other game, Roma drew 0-0 with Atletico Madrid.  

Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta (Rudiger 74), Christensen, Cahill (c); Zappacosta, Kante (Bakayoko 63), Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Batshuayi, Pedro (Hazard 58).
Unused subs Caballero, David Luiz, Moses, Morata.
Scorers Pedro 5, Zappacosta 30, Azpilicueta 55, Bakayoko 71, Batshuayi 76, Medvedev o.g. 82.
Cahill 16

Qarabag (4-1-4-1): Sehic; Medvedev, Huseynov, Sadygov (c) (Madatov 70) Rzezniczak; Garayev (Diniyev 70); Guerrier, Michel, Almeida, Henrique (Elyounoussi 77), Ndlovu. 
Unused subs Kanibolotskiy, Amirguliyev, Ismayilov, Yunuszada.

Referee Tasos Sidiropoulos.
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