Chelsea hit Qarabag for six in return to the Champions League
Chelsea showed no fears on the opening night of Champions League group stage football, despite not appearing in the competition for two years.
Harsher tests undoubtedly await Antonio Conte and his men, but Chelsea ran riot over Azerbaijani champions Qarabag at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. The Blues equalled their Champions League biggest win record with a phenomenal 6-0 victory over the competition debutants, despite resting several first team players.
Pre kick-off, all of the talk amongst Chelsea fans was with regards to Conte’s chosen eleven. Out were David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Victor Moses, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata, with captain Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, debutant Davide Zappacosta, Cesc Fabregas and Michy Batshuayi making the cut.
From the off, it was pretty apparent that Chelsea weren’t going to make a meal of their return to European football. Pedro opened the scoring with just five minutes on the clock, curling in a delicious 20 year strike from Willian’s tee-up.
Twenty-five minutes later, a new cult hero was to be born. On his first start for Conte’s outfit, Italian international Davide Zappacosta put his name into the history books, running 45 yards up his beloved right flank, taking on two Qarabag players before whipping a devilish cross into the box. Strangely, said powerful delivery whipped straight past Ibrahim Sehic in the goal into the back of the net and the game was heavily in the home side’s favour.
After the break, Chelsea did what all good sides do and truly finished the minnows off. Star man Cesar Azpilicueta bagged himself a rare goal shortly after the restart, nodding home, before substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko put the nail in the coffin on 70 minutes with a deflected shot from close range.
With the game all-but-over, Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi grabbed himself two precious goals to affirm Chelsea’s spot at the top of their Champions League group, with Atletico Madrid and Roma to come.
After the game, Conte said: “To play the first game, then to win with a good result, to score many goals, to finish the game with a clean sheet – I saw a lot of positive things tonight.”
With a brief cameo from long-term absentee Eden Hazard and a clean sheet the icing on the cake, Chelsea are flying high once again this season. Next up, the visit of Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.