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Chelsea beats Qarabag “Hands Down” qualifies for Champions League
The early dismissal of Qarabag skipper Rashad Sadygov gave chelsea the winning edge
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.
A stroll in the park for Chelsea: Rashad Sadygov’s dismissal in the 20th minute made life easy for Chelsea, who had an early fright when Michel somehow rattled the cross-bar when scoring looked easier. Eden Hazard converted the penalty conceded by Sadygov and it was Willian who doubled Chelsea’s lead a few minutes before half-time. Willian won his team another penalty in the second half and Cesc Fabregas converted it at the second attempt. Willian rounded off a good night’s work with a low drive into the corner.
The win assured Chelsea of a top-two finish in Group C and left the 2012 European champion with a two-point lead over Roma, which plays Atletico Madrid later.
The 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 Azeri 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.
Chelsea joined Tottenham, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Besiktas, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich in the knockout stage.