Catherine Ivill – AMA/Getty Images
Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and summer signings Tiemoue Bakayoko and Davide Zappacosta were among the goals as Chelsea hammered Qarabag FK 6-0 in their opening Group C match of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
A classy finish from Pedro, followed by a wonder strike from Zappacosta put Chelsea 2-0 ahead in the first half at Stamford Bridge. Cesar Azpilicueta, Bakayoko and Batshuayi added to the tally after the break, before an own goal from Maksim Medvedev capped the scoring, as the Blues had too much quality and strength in depth for the champions of Azerbaijan.
Chelsea refreshed things for a game they were heavily favoured to win, per OddsShark. Manager Antonio Conte handed starts to Batshuayi and Zappacosta in a refreshed starting XI, per the club’s official Twitter account:
Chelsea FC @ChelseaFC
Here’s a reminder of how the Blues line up… #CHEQAR https://t.co/CSnqqkHB1v
It took just five minutes for the hosts to go in front, courtesy of a fantastic strike from Pedro. Former Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas teed him up, before he curled in a sweetly struck long-range effort.
Pedro’s finish proved a landmark goal in Europe’s premier club competition for Chelsea, according to Sky Sports Statto:
Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto
Pedro has scored @ChelseaFC’s 250th CL goal, the 7th club to reach that mark. Frank Leboeuf scored the 1st v Hertha Berlin, Sept 1999 #UCL
Qarabag’s night got worse when Gary Cahill scythed down Brazilian debutant Pedro Henrique on a heavy challenge from behind. The centre-back has only just returned from serving a suspension in the Premier League after being red-carded in the season-opening loss to Burnley, and was reckless in leaving his feet so early.
Further forward, Chelsea were struggling to get Batshuayi involved in dangerous areas, although the Belgian striker was also sloppy in key moments, per ESPN FC’s Liam Twomey:
Liam Twomey @liam_twomey
Batshuayi linking up very nicely with Willian & Pedro, but his final touch in the penalty area has been loose. Perhaps trying too hard #cfc
It took Zappacosta to lift Chelsea out of what had become a sluggish spell. The right-back displayed awesome acceleration with a push-and-go move to beat his marker before rifling in a fierce cross shot from a seemingly impossible angle.
The former Torino man nearly doubled his tally on 33 minutes, but his low left-shot from inside the box whistled past the post. Even so, Chelsea were more than comfortable at the break.
Things got easier for the Blues 10 minutes into the second half, when Fabregas picked out Azpilicueta with a smart cross the versatile defender headed home to put the game out of sight.
Azpilicueta is usually the rock Chelsea’s defence is built around, but he’s recently proved a more than useful attacking outlet, per Squawka Football:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Cesar Azpilicueta has now scored or assisted in each of his last three games for Chelsea:
🅰️ vs. Everton
🅰️ vs. Leicester
⚽️ vs. Qarabag https://t.co/hpvz54c2so
Chelsea’s third was the cue for Conte to introduce Tiemoue Bakayoko and Eden Hazard off the bench. The latter is just back from an ankle injury and received a rapturous ovation from a Stamford Bridge faithful grateful for his match-winning talents.
Hazard’s flair was soon back on display when his deft touch released Willian in the box, but the Brazilian crashed a shot off the bar.
Chelsea were soon back among the goals, though, as Bakayoko and Batshuayi both scored inside the final 20 minutes to turn the game into a rout.
The Blues had been comfortable all night and turned on the style enough times to reflect the gulf in class between the sides.
Tougher tests lie ahead for Conte’s men in this season’s Champions League, but this emphatic win at least proves Chelsea have the strength in depth to go a long way.