23rd of November 2017

CL last 16 round reached after away win in Baku (0-4)

Two-and-half-thousand miles from home, the team got tonight’s job done and are into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Willian celebrated his 200th Chelsea appearance in style with the smoothly worked second goal and an individual effort to complete the scoring, and sandwiching his first strike were two fouls on him which were punished with penalties. The first of those was turned into the opener by Eden Hazard with his third goal in two matches, with the second scored by Cesc Fabregas deep into the second half. Pedro was on the starting line-up by COnte and played the full 90 minutes of the game.

Chelsea did survive a strike against our woodwork with the score 0-0 but the beauty of being 2-0 up by the interval and playing against 10 men, Qarabag having had their numbers reduced by a sending-off for the first penalty offence, was the chance to complete the victory with some comfort in the second half given such little time to recover before the weekend’s big game on Merseyside.

Antonio Conte spoke on the eve of this midweek game about considering rotation of his players as the games come thick and fast, with two fixtures a week until the New Year, and he decided to begin straightaway by bringing Willian, Pedro, David Luiz and Toni Rudiger into the side.

He also talked about having trust in all his players and his selection choice and this performance did that justice, even if there were a few shaky moments at the start.

Fabregas had a fourth-minute shot comfortably saved but there was more concern at the other end of the pitch inside the first 10 minutes when Davide Zappacosta was caught with the ball on the edge of the area by Mahir Madatov. Fortunately, Cesar Azpilicueta was close by to win it back.

Then on 12 minutes, the home team went very close to scoring. We looked stretched at the back as Maksim Medvedev was allowed through a gap and when Michel shot, the ball beat Thibaut Courtois but came back off the crossbar. Richard Almeida was well off-target with a follow-up.

With that wobbly moment behind us, the Blues began to threaten at the other end. Hazard was playing in the middle of a front-three attack with Pedro on the left and Willian the right-sider and the Brazilian had the misfortune of seeing a speculative shot hit Hazard, but the two linked to much greater effect only moments later when the Belgian threaded through a beautifully judged pass which gave Willian half-a-yard on his marker.

When he was pushed over, the ref pointed to the spot. There was much more surprise around the stadium when he also judged it worthy of a red card. For the third Champions League game running Qarabag were down to 10 men and this time it was their captain, Rashad Sadygov, dismissed.

Hazard kept his head during some delaying tactics before the spot-kick could be taken and stroked it in with no chance given to the keeper. Hazard then had the opportunity for another goal when receiving the type of Azpilicueta ball Morata has been feasting on but his header was directed at the goalie.

Chelsea were in control and it only took until 36 minutes for the Willian-Hazard combo to strike again and increase the lead to 2-0. Hazard’s back-heel to Willian in a tight spot made it, and the finish was clean. They had tried a similar link-up earlier on which had not quite come off but the quick-thinking pair did not need a third invitation. Pedro and Willian, with the initial ball onto Hazard, were involved earlier in the move.

Pedro looked likely to get in on the scoring act himself before half-time until he was hacked down just outside the area by Jakub Rzezniczak who was booked.

The speedy Spaniard was fairly stopped by the keeper’s block early in the second half when he had judged his run behind the defence and Fabregas his ball over the top perfectly.

Marcos Alonso was taken off by Conte not long after being booked and then taken on by the tricky Donald Guerrier which brought Gary Cahill into the action. Hazard too was able to rest his legs for Saturday at Anfield when Morata was brought on with 25 minutes left to play, and just after Hazard had forced the best save of the game from Ibrahim Sehic.

Morata was straightaway at the Qarabag defence and it needed a good tackle from Guerrier to prevent a pop at goal. When he did get a 69th-minute shot away from Rudiger’s pass, he directed it wide when he would more often than not score.

A minute later Chelsea were awarded our second spot-kick, this time the foul on Willian coming out wide. Qarabag were incredulous and Medvedev was booked for his complaints, and the drama did not end there as Fabregas was ordered to retake his successful conversion. On his second attempt at the penalty, he found the same corner of the net.

The icing on Willian’s performance was a right-foot rocket low into the bottom corner with five minutes left on the clock. The Chelsea fans high above that goal who had made such a long trip were enjoying a good night.


- Match stats:

Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), David Luiz, Rudiger; Zappacosta, Kante (Drinkwater 75), Fabregas, Alonso (Cahill 58), Willian, Hazard (Morata 65), Pedro.
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Sterling, Bakayoko.
Scorers Hazard 21 pen, Willian 36, 85, Fabregas 73 pen
Booked Alonso 53

Qarabag (4-5-1): Sehic; Medvedev, Rzezniczak, Sadygov (c), Agolli; Guerrier (Yunuszada 81), Almeida, Garayev, Michel, Madatov (Diniyev h-t), Ndlovu (Qunitana 85).
Unused subs Kanibolotskiy, Sheydaev, Amirguliyev, Ismayilov.
Sent off Sadygov 19
Booked Rzezniczak 41, Medvedev 70.

Referee Manuel De Sousa from Portugal
Crowd 67,100

- Match report by chelseafc.com

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