Chelsea booked their place in the Round of 16 on Wednesday as they cruised to a 4-0 win over ten-man Qarabag at the Baku National Stadium
The hosts gave Chelsea an early scare as they struck the woodwork twice in the 14th minute. Michel first hit the upright before Richard’s driving effort only managed to strike the crossbar. From thereon out, it was one-way traffic, with the Blues creating almost all of the clear cut opportunities.
That was largely in part due to Qarabag captain Rashad Sadygov being sent off, just five minutes later for bringing Willian down in the box. Eden Hazard converted the resulting penalty to break the deadlock.
The Blues doubled their advantage in the 36th minute when Hazard turned provider for Willian, who made no error to slot the ball past Ibrahim Sehic. Willian won another penalty in the 71st minute, and it was duly converted by Cesc Fabregas, who was asked to retake his spot kick, but made no error in scoring it again.
The win was then rounded off with five minutes left to run in regulation time with Willian completing his brace by firing home a thumping long-range effort past Sehic. With three points safely secured, Chelsea confirmed their passage into the Round of 16.
Full-time: Qarabag 0-4 Chelsea!
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 22, 2017
A win over Atletico Madrid on the final matchday would secure their status as winners of Group C, but before that, The Hard Tackle runs the rule over Antonio Conte’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 7/10
It was a quiet night for the most part for the Chelsea number one, with his side dominating the proceedings. He was quite lucky to have earned his third successive clean sheet though, with the woodwork denying Qarabag in the early stages of the match.
Nevertheless, it was another shut out for Courtois, who will be looking to keep another side away from his goal this weekend as the Blues pay Liverpool a visit.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
Mr. Consistent was at it again on Wednesday. A nervy early moment in the game notwithstanding, it was another solid performance by Azpilicueta on both ends of the pitch. While he did not have much to do defensively, the Spaniard looked dangerous moving forward, with his crossing now a threatening aspect of his game.
David Luiz: 6/10
Back in the side after a two-game stint off the pitch, Luiz did one thing right on Wednesday – put all the speculation surrounding his future to rest for the time being. Apart from that, he looked slightly off pace on the pitch to begin with before getting things under control.
All in all, with Andreas Christensen growing in stature with each performance, it looks like the Brazilian defender will have a tough time becoming more than a backup for the sweeper role in Chelsea’s back-three, with the Denmark international almost certain to return against Liverpool.
Antonio Rudiger: 7/10
— 👑Le Chelsea Boss👑 (@LeChelseaBoss) November 23, 2017
Preferred to Gary Cahill on the night, it was a commendable outing for Rudiger, who has blown hot and cold so far this season. Having shown a lot of composure to keep things in check at the back, this is the kind of outing that would give the German defender a lot of confidence going forward.
Davide Zappacosta: 6/10
Zappacosta made a sluggish start to the game as he was caught out by Mahir Madatov early on before Cesar Azpilicueta bailed him out. From thereon out though, he had little to do defensively and was largely only involved in the final third if at all.
But, that is where he was quite unimpressive, with his crossing abilities not being up to the mark. With Victor Moses set to return to the fold soon, Zappacosta needs to pull his socks up in order to keep his place in the starting lineup.
N’Golo Kante: 8/10
This diminutive Frenchman just makes the entire Chelsea lineup tick, somehow. Once the game had settled down following Qarabag’s initial onslaught, Kante ensured that his side strolled to a comfortable win, establishing control in the centre of the park and allowing Cesc Fabregas to pull the strings in attack.
The player just continues to show why he’s regarded so highly by everyone associated with Chelsea, and keeping him fit is paramount for their fortunes this season.
Cesc Fabregas: 8/10
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) November 22, 2017
On Wednesday night, Fabregas showed yet again exactly what he can do when afforded plenty of space in the final third. The Spaniard made merry as he sprayed the passes forward for Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard, pulling the strings beautifully before capping off a fine performance with a goal.
Marcos Alonso: 6/10
It has been quite evident on earlier occasions as well this season, and the minutes seem to be taking a toll once again on Alonso. While he had little to do defensively, the Spaniard could – and perhaps should – have been more involved in the final third, not managing to link up well with Hazard or Pedro.
Azpilicueta looked like a much better fit after he slotted in as the left wing-back upon Alonso’s substitution in the second half. A rest here or there might do wonders for his form and fitness.
2 – Willian, who made his 200th appearance in all comps for Chelsea tonight, also scored twice in a Champions League game for the Blues for the first time. Celebration. pic.twitter.com/VmzsqiLiWB
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 22, 2017
Where has this Willian been so far this season? The Brazilian winger was in imperious form all through the night as he made himself a huge menace for the Qarabag defenders. Given the freedom to rotate his position with fluidity with Hazard and Pedro, he seemed to revel in the role and his movement was tough to track.
With a hand in all four goals, including two of his own, this was Willian’s best performance in well over a year. He is 200 appearances and counting for Chelsea now, and the Brazil international would hope that this outing would give him an extended run in Conte’s side.
Another player who returned to the starting lineup after a while, Pedro used his pace to good effect to be yet another threat for the visitors. The Spaniard’s trickery added dynamism to Chelsea’s front-three, and he is another player who would now like to have a longer run in the side.
Eden Hazard: 8/10
After an emphatic performance on the weekend against West Bromwich Albion, Hazard’s outing on the night was not quite up there. But, the Belgian was still dangerous enough to constantly pose a threat with his nippy movement and speed.
1 – Eden Hazard has both scored and assisted in a single Champions League game for the first time in his career. Schemer. pic.twitter.com/6qVnSRP0NR
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 22, 2017
To cap off a strong performance, he also grabbed a goal and an assist for himself, and with Liverpool looming on the weekend got some much needed rest after being taken off with 25 minutes to go.
Gary Cahill: 6/10
Brought on in place of a sub par Alonso, Cahill slotted into the back-three and had an easy outing with Qarabag not posing much of a threat.
Alvaro Morata: 5/10
With the game already wrapped up, Morata looked like a shell of his domineering self after coming off the bench. The striker had quite a few chances to grab a goal for himself, but it looked like he had not put on his scoring boots on the night. Perhaps, he is saving them for Liverpool.
Danny Drinkwater: N/A
Came on with 15 minutes to go, Drinkwater had little to do during his short stint on the pitch and helped see the game out.