Chelsea Qualify for Champions League Knockout Stages with Win over Qarabag

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2017

Chelsea's midfielder from Belgium Eden Hazard (R) celebrates after scoring a goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Qarabag FK and Chelsea FC in Baku on November 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV        (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/Getty Images

Chelsea easily booked passage to the next round of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday with a simple 4-0 win over Qarabag in Azerbaijan. 

Qarabag gave the Blues a tough few opening minutes but were soon reduced to 10 men, and Chelsea took full advantage. Eden Hazard opened the scoring from the penalty spot and Willian doubled the lead before half-time, while Cesc Fabregas converted another penalty after the break. Willian also managed a second goal.

Here's a look at the two teams:

Underdogs Qarabag made a good start to the match, but the first chance fell to the Premier League champions, as Fabregas put goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic to work with a hard drive.

David Luiz headed wide before Michel nearly gave the hosts an unexpected lead, as his shot found the crossbar. Qarabag were holding their own, but their fortunes changed drastically after 19 minutes.

Rashad Sadygov made contact with Willian inside the box, handing the Blues a penalty and reducing Qarabag to 10 men. Hazard scored from the spot to complete the miserable sequence for the hosts.

Sports writer Dan Levene thought the sending-off was harsh:

Unsurprisingly, the nature of the match changed after the setback for Qarabag. Chelsea came out looking for a second goal, and they faced little resistance in midfield. Pedro fired a volley wide, and Hazard directed a header too close to Sehic.

A second goal was inevitable, and after Hazard played in Willian with a delightful backheel, the Brazilian rounded off the wonderful passing move.

Former England international Gary Lineker loved it:

The Blues took their foot off the pedal after that goal, controlling the pace of the match until half-time. Willian had another good look on goal, missing with a free-kick, before the official called an end to the half.

Pedro nearly added to the lead early in the second half, finding Sehic in his path after a quick attack. Chelsea didn't push the pace, however, and Qarabag put together some half-chances, mainly due to the excellent movement of Wilde-Donald Guerrier.

Antonio Conte took off the booked Marcos Alonso and Eden Hazard followed him to the sidelines shortly after, as the Blues focused on preserving their lead. The Belgian's last involvement was drawing yet another fine save from the Qarabag goalkeeper.

Guerrier made a crucial interception to deny Alvaro Morata a clear path to goal, and the Spaniard really should have done better shortly after, as he missed the target completely after a great pass from Antonio Rudiger.

Even the Blues' official Twitter account noted it was quite the miss:

Morata had a goal ruled out minutes later, after the assistant spotted Cesar Azpilicueta was offside when he provided the assist. The Blues got their third goal in the end, however, with Fabregas converting their second penalty of the night.

Danny Drinkwater entered the fray to replace N'Golo Kante, creating more space for the hosts, who finally gave Thibaut Courtois something to do when Guerrier found some space. 

But the better chances fell on the other end of the pitch, and Willian scored a second goal with minutes left to play, finishing after a lovely run. 

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