I asked our good friend and blogfather Graham MacAree if, like Chelsea, he would want to come out of self-imposed Champions League (or in his case, blogging) retirement in style and administer a 6-0 beatdown to this pesky Qarabag match report. Alas, unlike Chelsea, he was not game to do so.
But he did grant us a joke commensurate with the occasion.
/walks up to microphone— Graham MacAree (@MacAree) September 12, 2017
More like ... Qarabad!
/flees from angry crowd
So yeah. No 6-0 beatdown of a match report tonight. Just a bad joke of a match report for a bad joke of a match, ostensibly played under the anthem of the Champions League — but the sad flute version of it, rather than the grandiose angelic choir one.
This may have been a day we spent 18 months looking forward to, but Qarabag were truly qarabad; there’s not a qaradoubt about that.
These are the sorts of matches that really make the Champions League special— Steve Schmidt (@SchmidtXC) September 12, 2017
Outside of the first five minutes, when Pedro threatened to unveil the sequel to that one time he dribbled 30 yards back towards his own goal and then out for a corner kick over the goalline (with a couple bonus midfield giveaways), there was little doubt about Chelsea superiority. Fittingly, it was Pedro who got us started, after he was left in acres of space at the top of the box to finish with aplomb from Willian’s cutback. Qarabag had a qara-less habit of leaving Chelsea players unmarked, and we had no qara-qualms of make them qara-pay for it. Qara-pe diem was the word and Chelsea were the bird shouting it at the top of their lungs all night.
Actually, that’s probably a bit of an overstatement. Chelsea would’ve had to work very hard to be worse than Qarabag. Instead, we made light work of being much better and yet still not all that great and still end up with six goals. Conte made five changes from the weekend, but he could’ve made eleventy billion and Chelsea would have still dominated. (Incidentally, the Chelsea U19s, back in the Youth League after the year’s absence, also beat their Qarabag counterparts rather qarabadly, to the tune of 5-0 earlier in the day).
But back to the Tuesday Night Lights. Pedro went first. Then, on 30, Zappacosta mis-hit a cross like he meant it — something about long legs and force arms — and it flew into the back of the net as if he were David Luiz hitting a free kick. The real David Luiz was meanwhile ribbing Victor Moses on the bench. (“When are you going to score a goal like that?” said David Luiz, probably.) It’s taken Zappa one game to get to 50 per cent of Diego’s career tally of European goals for Chelsea. That’s a silly stat, but it was a silly game.
And I’ll look down and whisper, “no”.
Half-time arrived, along with periods of heavy rain. The second half began. Conte put on a rain jacket, that’s how much we cared. Qarabag’s barely visible sign of life was snuffed out not ten minutes later as Azpilicueta got involved in a similar goal as scored by Chelsea in each of the last two league games — except this time it was Azpi who headed in a cross from deep on the right, delivered expertly by a bored-looking Cesc Fabregas. First Champions League goal in the Qarabag for Azpilicueta, who made an even rarer sight a bit later as he was substituted off and given a brief rest for the final quarter of an hour.
By then Chelsea were up four as substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko, having replaced Champions League debutant N’Golo Kante just past the hour mark, bagged the first Chelsea goal of his career. Kante passed on a European adventure with Leicester to join Chelsea last summer — I hope he enjoyed his hour of action tremendously tonight. Eden Hazard got Conte’s second half changes started not five minutes prior to all that with another carefully timed appearance in search of full match fitness.
Then Batshuayi got into the flow finally and scored a couple, the second of which was eventually changed to an own goal by Maksim Medvedev. Not that anyone was keeping track; the only things that were being counted by then wer the minutes remaining.
So, 6-0 to the guys, made even sweeter by Roma and Atletico Madrid playing out a 0-0 draw in Rome in the concurrent group game. If Chelsea can win in Madrid in two weeks’ time, we will have just about secured advancement to the knockout round.
Not a bad way to mark the club’s return to the Champions League. Reunited, and it feels so good.