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Dublin: 0°C Friday 23 April 2021

Did he mean it? Zappacosta scores stunning goal on his Champions League debut

Chelsea hammered Qarabag 6-0 at Stamford Bridge.

UNSURPRISINGLY, CHELSEA made light work of the challenge of Qarabag — the Azerbaijani side making their Champions League debut — on the opening match night at Stamford Bridge.

Antonio Conte used the Group C game to shuffle his pack and handed starts to Michy Batshuayi and Andreas Christensen as well as a full Chelsea debut to Davide Zappacosta.

The Italian — a deadline day arrival from Torino — made his first appearance in the Blues’ 2-1 win over Leicester City on Saturday, and wasted little time in making his mark on his Champions League bow tonight.

With the hosts already in the lead thanks to Pedro’s opener, Zappacosta did this….

The 25-year-old bombed down the right flank before curling his effort into the top corner, catching goalkeeper Ibrahim Sevic off guard from 30 yards out — but did he actually mean it?

This picture would suggested he didn’t, with the right-back looking into the box, and not towards the goal or goalkeeper, just before he strikes it.


Either way, a fine way to mark your full debut.

Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Batshuayi were all on the scoresheet in the second half to give Chelsea their joint biggest Champions League win.

Placed in a tricky group including Atletico Madrid and Roma, the English champions couldn’t afford to slip up against a team of Qarabag’s limited European pedigree.

Conte took a gamble by making five changes from Saturday’s win at Leicester, resting David Luiz, Victor Moses, Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata.

But Conte, whose switches were made with an eye on Sunday’s Premier League clash against Arsenal, had no need to worry as Chelsea laid seige to the Qarabag goal before taking the lead in the fifth minute.

Willian’s pass found Pedro unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and the Spain winger curled a fine first-time finish into the top corner.

Qarabag were the first club from Azerbaijan to play in the Champions League, having emerged from the ashes of their war-torn region to become one of the tournament’s most unlikely success stories.

Chelsea had no intention of letting the minnows extend their romantic tale, pushing for a second goal that almost arrived when Willian forced Sehic to save.

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Chelsea v Qarabag - UEFA Champions League - Group C - Stamford Bridge Source: John Walton

When Conte’s men doubled their lead in the 30th minute, it was laced with more than a slice of good fortune — but Zappacoasta won’t care a jot.

Qarabag at last had a shot when Pedro Henrique brought Thibaut Courtois into action.

It was only a temporary respite and Chelsea put the result beyond doubt in the 55th minute.

Cesc Fabregas took Willian’s pass and lofted a cross towards Azpilicueta, who glanced a clever header past Sehic from close-range.

Eden Hazard was cheered to the rafters when he came off the bench in the 57th minute, making just his second appearance for Chelsea this season after ankle surgery.

Willian hit the bar with a fierce strike and, with Qarabag growing more ragged by the minute, the hosts bagged their fourth in the 71st minute.

Capitalising on slack Qarabag defending, French midfielder Bakayoko grabbed his first Chelsea goal, slotting home from Hazard’s cross.

Qarabag were so woeful at the back that even the shot-shy Batshuayi was able to fill his boots.

The Belgian forward struck in the 76th minute with a long-range drive, before Qarabag defender Maksim Medvedev deflected another Batshuayi effort into his own net.

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