Chelsea 6, Qarabag 0
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas believes his team are returning to top form after they equalled their record Champions League win with a ruthless drubbing of Qarabag at Stamford Bridge.
Summer signings Davide Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko scored their first goals for the club as manager Antonio Conte’s gamble of making five changes paid off handsomely against the Azerbaijani side.
Michy Batshuayi, Pedro and an own goal completed the scoring as the Blues showed glimpses of last season’s title-winning form on their return to Europe’s top competition following an 18-month absence.
“We’ve been waiting for a long time to be back playing in the Champions League, finally it arrived. It’s a good performance, a good result,” said Fabregas.
“I think it’s a good performance from everyone. I feel personally very well. I think the team collectively are back to, I wouldn’t say our best, but we are getting there. So slowly, slowly we come back to top form.”
Conte singled out Chelsea’s attitude for praise as they set the pace in Group C and warmed up for Sunday’s Premier League visit from Arsenal.
“I saw the right commitment from my players, great focus, great concentration from the start of the game,” he said.
“These are tricky games and for this reason we must pay good attention, but I’m pleased for the great performance from the players.”
Chelsea were playing their first Champions League match for 18 months, having missed out on European competition altogether last term, and needed just four minutes to make their presence felt, forward Pedro bending a first-time shot into the top corner following a short corner routine.
Wing-back Zappacosta, a surprise deadline-day acquisition from Torino, doubled their advantage on his first start for the club, albeit inadvertently, when he ran the length of the right flank and whipped in a cross that beat wrong-footed goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic at his near post.
Qarabag were making their first appearance in the group stage and fell apart in the second half, allowing Fabregas time to cross with the outside of his boot for Azpilicueta to glance in a header.
Former Monaco midfielder Bakayoko fired in via a deflection when the visitors failed to clear a corner and then showcased his ball-winning ability, setting up Batshuayi to rifle home from 20 yards.
Zappacosta and Batshuayi were both involved when Chelsea grabbed a late sixth, the former’s low cross finding the latter, who bundled in via defender Maksim Medvedev.
Roma and Atletico Madrid played out a goalless draw in the other match in Group C.