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Conte delighted as Chelsea bounce back with six appeal

Chelsea 6 Qarabag 0

By Matt McGeehan

Chelsea marked their Champions League return with a 6-0 Group C rout of Azerbaijan's Qarabag, but sterner tests await. Goals from Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi ensured a comfortable return to Europe's elite after last season's absence.

The sixth was bundled in by a combination of Batshuayi and defender Maksim Medvedev.

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said: "It was a good result. We started the Champions League in the right way. I saw great commitment, focus and concentration. It was a great performance.

"There were lots of positives. Davide Zappacosta played very well and Eden Hazard is trying to find his best form.It's very important to give players like Andreas Christiansen an opportunity. They must understand I trust them."

Midfielder Cesc Fabregas added: "It was a good performance, a good result.

"You never know if goals (difference) will count at the end of the group stage. We are getting back to our best.

"We rotated five players. We have nine games in 21 days. It's a difficult period. We weren't used to this last year as we weren't in the Champions League."

Chelsea next play Atletico Madrid with the saga surrounding Diego Costa rumbling on, before home and away clashes with Roma. It is those games which will determine the Blues' progress or otherwise.

Zappacosta's 30th-minute strike was the highlight.

The Italian, signed on deadline day from Torino and making his Champions League debut, struck from wide on the right.

It appeared to be an attempted cross which, for him and Chelsea, was wonderfully miscued.

Qarabag beat the champions of Georgia, Moldova and Denmark to become the first Azerbaijan side to reach the Champions League group stages. The English champions proved a different proposition, despite Conte rotating his options for the second of seven matches in September.

Alvaro Morata, Eden Hazard, David Luiz and Bakayoko were among the substitutes, while Batshuayi, Andreas Christensen and Zappacosta were given an opportunity.

N'Golo Kante was making his Champions League debut despite winning the Premier League in successive seasons with Leicester and then Chelsea. And the France midfielder thrived in a ruthless team performance.

Marauding left wing-back Marcos Alonso had a shot punched away unconvincingly by goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic before Chelsea took a fifth-minute lead.

A short corner was worked by Willian to Pedro, who, unmarked, curled the ball in.

Sehic denied Willian and Batshuayi was unable to turn in the rebound from a tight angle before Chelsea's second.

Thibaut Courtois rolled the ball to Zappacosta, deep in his own half. He ran down the right, by two would-be tacklers and looked for a target in the area.

But, with goalkeeper Sehic off his line, what appeared to be a misdirected cross found the net.

Pedro Henrique had a shot held by Courtois as Qarabag refused to sit back. Their defending was woeful and Azpilicueta headed in a Fabregas cross to make it 3-0 in the second half.

Willian hit the bar before Bakayoko's deflected effort went in after another short corner.

Next, Bakayoko and Batshuayi combined, the latter drilling in.

A Zappacosta cross was then turned goalwards by Batshuayi, with Medvedev hapless in his attempts to prevent the goal.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta (Rudiger, 75 mins), Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta, Kante (Bakayoko, 63 mins), Fabregas, Alonso, Willian, Batshuayi, Pedro (Hazard, 58 mins). Unused subs: Caballero, Morata, Moses, Luiz.

Qarabag: Sehic, Medvedev, Guseynov, Sadygov (Madatov, 70 mins), Rzezniczak, Garayev (Diniyev, 70 mins), Pedro Henrique (Elyounoussi, 77 mins), Michel, Almeida, Guerrier, Ndlovu. Unused subs: Kanibolotskiy, Amirguliyev, Ismayilov, Yunuszadze.

Man of the match: Davide Zappacosta

Match rating: 8/10

Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece)

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