Willian stars as Chelsea rout Qarabag to claim UCL round-of-16 place
Chelsea qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League with an emphatic 4-0 rout of Qarabag in Baku. Willian starred, scoring twice and winning two penalties, the first of which was converted by Eden Hazard, the second by Cesc Fabregas. After an edgy start, the London club eased through the gears, dominated possession and looked like scoring every time they mounted an attack.
Qualification, four goals, a clean sheet and no injuries; Antonio Conte couldn't have a wished for a better outcome,
None. Finding fault with a team that wins 4-0, 2,500 miles from home would be churlish.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Conte rotated his squad to good effect, bringing in the likes of David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Willian. He will be pleased that, with Chelsea facing a hectic fixture schedule of two games per week for the remainder of the year, his squad is responding well to subtle tactical line-up changes in a bid to keep things fresh.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Had the crossbar to thank for his clean sheet when beaten early by a Michel shot with the score 0-0 but, thereafter, was a spectator as Chelsea dominated possession.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- Another faultless display from the versatile captain, who started the match in the back three and finished it at wing-back when Gary Cahill replaced Marcos Alonso.
DF David Luiz, 6 -- Back in the side for the first time since the 3-0 loss to Roma, Luiz took a while to settle into the game and was fortunate when Michel beat him to the ball and rattled the woodwork. Composure followed, but he didn't show enough defensive quality to give Conte any reason to select him for Saturday's game at Liverpool.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Solid defensive performance. Made some excellent covering tackles to restrict Qarabag striker Dino Ndlovu.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 6 -- Saw plenty of the action on the right flank but his final ball lacked quality, particularly when Alvaro Morata entered the fray in the role of orthodox striker; he could have profited with better service.
MF Marcos Alonso, 5 -- Effective going forward, but struggled defensively to contain Wilde-Donald Guerrier. A booking on the hour for impeding the Haiti international led to Conte substituting Alonso before further frustration might have resulted in his dismissal.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- Having ensured Chelsea's defence weathered an early Qarabag storm, Kante went into cruise control, controlling midfield and allowing Cesc Fabregas the latitude to play further forward.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 -- Played some delightful balls out of midfield to provide ammunition for Pedro, Willian and Hazard and linked up with Azpilicueta and Zappacosta. With Hazard subbed, Babregas took Chelsea's second penalty of the game and remained focused enough to score when asked to retake following an infringement.
FW Willian, 9 -- Willian has been on the periphery of Conte's Premier League team thinking for some time now, but handed a free rein against Qarabag by the Blues' boss the Brazil international provided a timely reminder of his ability, scoring two goals and winning two penalties in what was a an outstanding man-of-the-match performance.
FW Pedro, 7 -- Qarabag's defence had no answer to his pace, other than resorting to cynical challenges. Pedro had chances to score but was denied by a mix of decent goalkeeping and poor finishing.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- Hazard has been deployed as a "false nine" on a number of occasions but flattered to deceive more often than not in the position. That changed against Qarabag; the 26-year-old displayed excellent spatial awareness and had the pace to continually cause problems. He converted the first penalty of the game and teed up Willian for Chelsea's second goal.
DF Gary Cahill, 6 -- Replaced Alonso and went into the back three where he was untroubled for the remainder of the game.
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 -- Replaced Hazard and maintained the constant threat to Qarabag's defence. Saw plenty of the ball but was unable to find the net.
MF Danny Drinkwater, NR -- Replaced Kante late on with victory sealed.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco