Chelsea beats Qarabag 4-0, reaches Champions League last 16
BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Willian helped to sweep Chelsea into the knockout stage of the Champions League with a game to spare Wednesday, winning a game-changing penalty and also scoring twice in a 4-0 victory over 10-man Qarabag.
The win assured Chelsea of a top-two finish in Group C and left the 2012 European champion at the top with a two-point lead over Roma, which lost 2-0 at Atletico Madrid in the group’s other game.
Chelsea’s match turned on the 19th-minute sending-off of Qarabag defender Rashad F. Sadygov, who received a straight red card for tugging back Willian just inside the area as the Chelsea forward ran onto Eden Hazard’s pass.
Hazard, who started as the lone striker with Alvaro Morata on the bench, stroked home the penalty for a sixth goal in his last seven games since returning from a broken ankle.
The Belgium international turned provider in Chelsea’s well-worked team goal in the 36th minute, back-heeling the ball into the path of Willian as part of a one-two to allow the Brazilian to side-foot a finish into the bottom corner.
There was little chance of Qarabag, the first Azerbaijan team to reach the group stage of the Champions League, stopping Chelsea from becoming the seventh club into the last 16. And it was a damage-limitation exercise for the hosts thereafter.
That suited Chelsea, which eased off in view of its tough-looking trip to Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte even had the luxury of substituting left wing back Marcos Alonso and Hazard around the hour mark.
That meant Hazard was off the field when Chelsea was awarded a second penalty, for a tug on Willian by Gara Garayev. Cesc Fabregas tucked his spot kick away, only for it to be ruled out for encroachment, but the midfielder converted at the second attempt, too.
Willian made the victory even more emphatic by driving home a low finish from 25 meters in the 85th, taking Chelsea’s tally of goals against Qarabag in the group stage to 10. The English team won 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in September.
Qarabag was used to playing with 10 men, having had players sent off in each of its last two Champions League outings — impressive draws home and away to Atletico.
The home side, which had given Chelsea an early scare by hitting the crossbar through Michel in the 13th minute, has two points from its five games and cannot advance.
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