Chelsea made a swaggering start to their
Champions League challenge as memorable
strikes from Pedro and Davide Zappacosta
inspired a 6-0 rout of Qarabag on Tuesday.
Antonio Conte’s side were in businesslike
mood against the minnows from Azerbaijan,
with Pedro’s long-range effort putting them
ahead early on at Stamford Bridge.
Zappacosta was making his home debut for
Chelsea after his deadline day move from
Torino and he marked the occasion with his
first goal for the club, a cross-shot that capped
a lung-bursting run from the Italy right-back.
Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and
Michy Batshuayi were all on the scoresheet in
the second half to give Chelsea their joint
biggest Champions League win.
“It was a good result. We started the
Champions League in the right way,” Conte
“I saw great commitment, focus and
concentration right from the start. It was a
great performance from the players. “There
were a lot of positive things from us. Davide
Zappacosta played very well.”
Placed in a tricky group including Atletico
Madrid and Roma, the English champions
couldn’t afford to slip up against a team of
Qarabag’s limited European pedigree.
Conte took a gamble by making five changes
from Saturday’s 2-1 win at Leicester City,
resting David Luiz, Victor Moses, Bakayoko,
Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata.
But Conte, whose switches were made with an
eye on Sunday’s Premier League clash against
Arsenal, had no need to worry as Chelsea laid
seige to the Qarabag goal before taking the
lead in the fifth minute.
Willian’s pass found Pedro unmarked on the
edge of the penalty area and the Spain winger
curled a fine first-time finish into the top
Qarabag were the first club from Azerbaijan to
play in the Champions League, having emerged
from the ashes of their war-torn region to
become one of the tournament’s most unlikely
Chelsea had no intention of letting the
minnows extend their romantic tale, pushing
for a second goal that almost arrived when
Willian forced Ibrahim Sehic to save.
When Conte’s men doubled their lead in the
30th minute, it was laced with more than a slice
of good fortune.