Willian impressed as Chelsea qualify to the round of sixteen
English champions Chelsea qualify for the the Champions League knockout stages on Wednesday having edged Qarabag 4-0 in Baku.
Hazard puts the Blues ahead in the 21st-minute through a penalty after Willian had been Fowled back by Rashad Sadygov, who was shown a straight red card.
With the hosts down to 10 men, Chelsea dominated the clash and went 2-0 up when Willian latched onto Hazard’s back-heel to score in the 36th minute.
Cesc Fabregas then converted a second-half penalty – awarded for a shirt pull on Willian – before the Brazilian netted a superb effort with five minutes left to play to secure a 4-0 win that sent Chelsea into the last 16 of the Champions League with a game left to play.
With a congested fixture list ahead for the Blues, Conte’s decision to make several line-up changes for the trip to Azerbaijan came as no real surprise.
In came David Luiz, who was omitted for the game against Manchester United and then kept on the bench for the trip to West Brom, as Alvaro Morata was rested with the Liverpool game on Saturday in mind.
Conte also opted to switch back to a 3-4-3 formation – the set-up that played a huge role in the club winning the Premier League title last season – despite his 3-5-2 formation having seen the Blues beat United and West Brom and keep two clean sheets.
Yet it was Qarabag who started the game the brighter of the two sides, with the hosts coming close to taking a shock lead when Michel scooped the ball over Thibaut Courtois in the 13th minute but saw it hit the bar.
Their manager Gurban Gurbanov had urged his side to “fight” until the end against Chelsea to give the home fans a treat in their final Group C game in Baku.
But any hope the hosts had of really testing Chelsea was handed a huge blow when Qarabag captain Sadygov was sent off for pulling back Willian in the box in the 19th minute, with the Blues being handed a penalty for the foul.
Hazard was, for a few minutes, prevented from taking the spot-kick because of Gurbanov’s decision to call his players to the touchline for an impromptu team talk as Sadygov slowly walked off.
But after referee Manuel De Sousa rushed over to haul the players back, Hazard coolly sent his penalty into the bottom right-hand side of the corner to hand the Blues the lead in the 21st minute.
Chelsea then doubled their advantage following some lovely link-up play from their forwards in the 36th minute, which started when Fabregas sent the ball to Pedro who combined with Willian to give Hazard the ball.
The Belgian delivered a back-heel pass into the path of Willian, who only had to drive the ball past Ibrahim Sehic and into the goal.
The half-time break was met by boos from the home fans, who were clearly still incensed at the referee’s decision to show Sadygov a red card.
But the balance of play didn’t change in the second period as Chelsea continued to dominate proceedings despite Qarabag’s attempts to try and get a consolation goal.
Indeed, Chelsea could have gone 3-0 up but saw Sehic deny Hazard before substitute Morata drove an effort from inside the box just wide of the far post and saw another effort, which did go into the back of the net, disallowed for offside on Cesar Azpilicueta.
It wasn’t long before the Blues were handed the chance to ensure the victory, however, when referee De Sousa pointed to the spot for Maksum Medvedev’s shirt pull on Willian.
Despite Fabregas being forced to re-take his initial spot-kick, which he had scored, the Spaniard repeated the feat in the 73rd minute as Willian’s superb, powerful effort with five minutes left secured a 4-0 win for Chelsea to send them into the knockout stages of the Champions League.
What next, Chelsea will travel to Anfield at the weekend to square off with Liverpool in the EPL.
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