Chelsea 6-0 Qarabag: Davide Zappacosta scores wonder goal in rout
By Robert O'Connor
Last Updated: 13/09/17 8:12am
Davide Zappacosta scored a wonder goal on his full debut as Chelsea made a resounding return to the Champions League with a 6-0 win against Azerbaijani champions Qarabag at Stamford Bridge.
Zappacosta beat goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic with a spinning cross-shot from almost on the touchline to put Antonio Conte's team two up following Pedro's fifth-minute 20-yard strike.
Cesar Azpilicueta headed a third early in the second half, before a first Chelsea goal from Tiemoue Bakayoko and a brace from Michy Batshuayi saw Conte's side blitz Qarabag with three strikes in 11 minutes.
The tournament debutants from Azerbaijan rarely looked like troubling Thibaut Courtois in the home goal, with South African centre-forward Dino Ndlovu limited to speculative efforts from distance as the hosts cruised to a comfortable opening-day victory in Group B.
Chelsea: Courtois (6), Azpilicueta (7), Christensen (6), Cahill (6), Zappacosta (8), Kante (8), Fabregas (7), Alonso (7), Willian (9), Batshuayi (8), Pedro (8)
Subs: Bakayoko (7), Hazard (7), Rudiger (6)
Qarabag: Sehic (5), Medvedev (5), Sadigov (5), Rzezniczak (4), Huseynov (5), Garayev (4), Michel (4), Henrique (7), Almeida de Oliveira (6), Guerrier (6), Dino (5)
Subs: Diniyev (5), Madatov (6), Elyounoussi (5)
Man of the match: Willian
In what was always likely to be Conte's side's most straightforward group-stage assignment, Chelsea were ahead inside five minutes, Willian being given space to meander in-field from a short corner and pick out Pedro who clipped a neat finish inside Sehic's near post.
Qarabag never looked comfortable in their shape on their Champions League bow but it was a moment of individual brilliance from Zappacosta which brought the second goal, firing the ball in from the touchline after a driving run with Sehic expecting a cross.
The visitors stood off Cesc Fabregas from a Willian quick free kick for Chelsea's third, allowing the Spaniard to stand the ball up for Azpilicueta to nod a simple header into the corner as Gurban Gurbanov's side withered under the onslaught.
Former Birmingham City midfielder Michel misjudged a cross with 20 minutes to go, cushioning the ball into the path of Bakayoko to slam in his first Chelsea goal via a deflection, and Qarabag continued to afford Chelsea acres of space when Batshuayi, in the side in place of Alvaro Morata, strolled through to plant a fine drive into Sehic's bottom corner.
Hazard started on the bench for Chelsea, whilst there was still no involvement for the injured Drinkwater.South African Ndlovu started for Qarabag.
Polish full-back Jakub Rzezniczak dwelt on the ball in the corner to allow a grateful Zappacosta to steal possession and deliver a low cross for Batshuayi to grab his second and Chelsea's sixth, as the Belgian made the most of a rare start as Morata watched from the bench.
Ndlovu tried in vain to cut the deficit when he fired over Courtois' cross bar from 18 yards in the closing stages, but Qarabag were out of their depth as Chelsea warmed up for stiffer tests in Group B against Roma and Atletico Madrid.
- This was Chelsea's joint-biggest win in the Champions League (6-0 vs Maribor in October 2014).
- Qarabag managed just five touches in Chelsea's penalty area tonight - three Chelsea players managed as many in the Azerbaijani sides box (Alonso six, Batshuayi and Zappacosta five).
- Davide Zappacosta became the 100th Italian player to score a Champions League goal (excluding own goals).
- Thibaut Courtois' assist for Zappacosta's strike was the first by a keeper in the Champions League since Fraser Forster set up Tony Watt for Celtic against Barcelona in November 2012.
Antonio Conte: "It was a good start, a perfect start for us.To play the first game [of the] Champions League, 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.
"Now we have to continue, we have to rest tomorrow and then to start to think about the next game, a strong game, a tough game against Arsenal [on Sunday].
"To play in the Champions League it means the coach trusts you. My message tonight was this: I trust all my players, not with only words, but with facts. If we think like last season to play with only 13 players we are crazy. We have to improve all these players to try and create a good competition, a positive competition, between them. It's very important."
Gurban Gurbanov: "The game was very difficult for us. Chelsea played very good. Chelsea is a favourite for the tournament. We made lots of errors and I accept we must play even better. But I am satisfied with the way we played."
Man of the match - Willian
The Brazilian play-maker was as mercurial as ever, albeit against a side that afforded limitless space to Chelsea's midfield. His passing was pinpoint, his tackling feisty but measured, and he looked a threat every time he received the ball in the final third. There will be tougher tests for Willian, and for Chelsea, but against Qarabag everything he did came off.
Chelsea travel to Atletico Madrid in Champions League Group C on Wednesday, September 27, kick-off at 7.45pm.
The Blues host Arsenal in the Premier League on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 12.30pm.