Sunday, September 24, 2017

Stoke City 4-0


Stoke City 0-4 Chelsea: Alvaro Morata scores sublime hat-trick to help champions ease past Potters

By Joe Bernstein for The Mail on Sunday

In the time it's taken Diego Costa to fly to Madrid and sign for Atletico, Chelsea fans have forgotten all about him. Replacement Alvaro Morata bagged a splendid hat-trick and was serenaded by the club's noisy travelling support.

They sang: 'He comes from sunny Spain, he's better than Harry Kane', rather than the unsavoury chant from earlier in the season.

Morata was brilliant from start to finish, scoring his opening goal after only 83 seconds and mantaining his levels so he could poach numbers two and three towards the end.

Though Stoke were seriously disrupted by injuries, there was no doubting the former Real Madrid star's quality, different to the way Costa bullied the same opposition in March, but just as masterful.

With Pedro also on the score sheet, Chelsea were able to comfortably keep their 100 per cent away record and show this season's title race might not be a two-horse affair between the Manchester clubs.

A lot has been made of the strength in depth available to Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho but Chelsea's bench at the Bet365 Stadium included Gary Cahill, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard – not to shabby.

'Alvaro did very well. He scored a hat-trick just like Michy Batshuayi did in midweek, it's very important for a striker. I am pleased about his performance but also the team as it shows they are creating chances,' said winning manager Antonio Conte.

'It's always a difficult game at Stoke. We struggled to win 2-1 last season with a late goal. The key this time was to start well and score early. Then we were in control of the game. Morata was very good. Now he has to continue this way to be a great striker.'

Stoke's line-up looked vulnerable with injuries to Kevin Wimmer, Geoff Cameron and Ryan Shawcross leaving Bruno Martins Indi as the only available centre-half, with loanee Kurt Zouma ineligible to face his parent club.

They sent out a three-man central defence with two full-backs, and two attack-minded wingers as wing-backs and the disjointed look saw them fall behind in only the second minute.

Cesar Azpilicueta pinged a long ball and Morata found acres of space between Glen Johnson and Martins Indi though his finish, one touch to control and a second low past Jack Butland, was world-class.

Chelsea's second arrived after 30 minutes courtesy of Stoke captain and their most experienced player, Darren Fletcher.

The 33-year-old midfielder attempted a chest pass to Martins Indi just outside his box but played the ball into the path of Pedro who finished brilliantly from 18 yards. Fletcher knew he'd cost his team, screaming out an expletive at the top of his voice as the ball hit the back of the net.

Stoke needed something to lift the crowd and Mame Diouf raised the volume with a spectacular overhead kick from Joe Allen's cross that flew narrowly over.

There was also drama at the start of the second half when Marcos Alonso received a bang on the face from Diouf and vented his frustration by kicking Allen to receive a yellow. He then caught Diouf leaving Stoke fans to bay for a red card.

Alonso was removed by Conte after 59 minutes, Hughes considering it evidence that Chelsea knew he'd been lucky to escape a dismissal.

'He should have been sent off,' said the Stoke manager, who was irritable through the game and warned by the fourth official to calm down at one stage.

The Italian denied that was the motivation for replacing his left wing-back. 'Honestly, it was a tactical substitution. I could see they were preparing to bring on Peter Crouch.

'You know very well we always suffer with him and for this reason I preferred to reinforce our defensive line with Gary Cahill and to move Azpi to wing-back.'

Cahill duly came on for Chelsea with Crouch arriving two minutes later and promptly winning a knockdown that Diouf fired over, but Morata had the last laugh to underline why Chelsea spent a record £60million transfer fee on him last summer.

After 77 minutes, he capitalised on a intercepted pass from Johnson to accelerate away from the defender and past the struggling Fletcher. The move was completed by a lovely dinked finish over Butland.

The hat-trick goal arrived five minutes later. Fabregas pinged a quarteback pass to Azpilicueta who managed a chested pass into Morata's path without breaking stride.

Chelsea's No9 tapped in one of the easier goals of his career and Hughes said: 'He is a top quality striker, clearly. For that money you would expect that and if you look at the chance conversions, Chelsea had seven shots on target and he scored three. We had 13 and didn't score any. You can't win Premier League games if you make catastrophic errors and we made at least three.

'We were still very much in the game at 2-0 but then Bruno went off because he'd done his groin. Once we were down to no centre-backs, they were able to embellish the scoreline.'

As the hero Morata was engulfed by team-mates, the travelling Blue army broke into song. There must have been temporary alarm in the directors' box given that an earlier ditty for Morata contained some unacceptable anti-semitic content.

The fans had heeded the stern warnings not to repeat that tune and instead sang about their new hero being better than Harry Kane - and possibly Costa, too.

Stoke City (3-4-3): Butland 6; Johnson 5, Martins Indi 6.5 (Afellay 76, 6), Pieters 6; Diouf 7, Fletcher 4.5, Allen 6, Ramadan 5.5; Shaqiri 6.5, Choupo-Moting 6, Jese 5.5 (Crouch 61, 6.5)

Unused subs: Grant, Tymon, Souttar, Adam, Berahino

Bookings: Shaqiri 47, Crouch 89

Manager: Mark Hughes

Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois 6.5; Azpilicueta 8, Christensen 6.5, Rudiger 7; Moses 6.5, Kante 6.5, Bakayoko 7, Alonso 6.5 (Cahill 58, 6); Willian 7 (Hazard 73, 6), Morata 9, Pedro 7.5 (Fabregas 68, 7)

Unused subs: Caballero, Zappacosta, Musonda, Batshuayi

Goals: Morata 2, 77, 82, Pedro 30

Bookings: Alonso 50, Kante 56

Manager: Antonio Conte

Referee: Mike Dean 7

Attendance: 29,661



Stoke City 0 Chelsea 4: Diego Costa consigned to history as Alvaro Morata bags hat-trick

John Percy

“He comes from sunny Spain, he’s better than Harry Kane”, was the new chant from Chelsea’s supporters.

There was the proof, if it was needed, that Diego Costa has finally been consigned to history and Chelsea’s future appears brighter with Alvaro Morata.

While Costa’s sale to Atletico Madrid will ease the worry lines on Antonio Conte’s forehead, any fears over the wisdom of that £57m deal will disappear with Morata in this form.

The summer signing claimed a hat-trick, with the three goals all scored with his feet, to complete a comfortable afternoon for the Premier League champions as they prepare for a potentially pivotal week.

Stoke’s depleted defence were punished in a ruthless performance with Morata at the forefront with a classic centre-forward’s performance, his second goal in particular a sublime individual effort.

There was even a more tasteful new song from the travelling Chelsea fans to serenade their new hero, a fortnight after the controversial chant at Leicester which was condemned by the club. Morata now has six league goals since that move from Real Madrid.

He will create fewer unwanted headlines, and lacks the bull-headed aggression of his predecessor, but the 24-year-old’s success in front of goal is likely to define Conte’s title defence.

September 23rd 2017 AD (After Diego) feels like a big moment in Conte’s Chelsea reign.

“I was pleased with the new chant from our supporters and I thank them for that. I was also pleased with Alvaro’s performance and scoring a hat-trick is very important for a striker,” said the Chelsea manager.

“Now he has to continue in this way to be a top striker. It is not easy to win away at Stoke as this game is always difficult but we created many chances to improve the final result.

"I think we have to be focused at what we do and not others. We want to fight in every competition we are playing."

The chaotic opening day defeat against Burnley must feel like a long time ago for Conte now, with Chelsea rediscovering the verve and vigour from last season.

This week promises to be a crucial moment in their campaign, with  Wednesday’s  rematch with old enemies Atletico Madrid in the Champions League before their encounter with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City next weekend.

Games at the Potteries can often be strewn with danger for the big clubs but Conte cannot have envisaged such a stress-free afternoon. He even had the luxury of starting with Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas on the bench.

There were mitigating circumstances for Stoke, in fairness, who have suffered an untimely and almighty defensive crisis. Ryan Shawcross, Kevin Wimmer and Geoff Cameron were all injured, while on-loan defender Kurt Zouma was ineligible against his parent club.

Towards the end, shortly before Chelsea’s third goal, Bruno Martins Indi joined the lengthy list after limping off with a groin problem.

Indeed, Stoke are so short of options that the ‘Jaws’ theme music could have been played every time the ball was punted into their half.

And Hughes’ fears were realised after just 80 seconds when Chelsea took the lead with a brutally simple goal.

Cesar Azpilicueta’s lofted pass completely bypassed Stoke’s three-man defence to send Morata clear and his finish under Jack Butland was clinical. It was Morata’s first non-headed goal for Chelsea.

Stoke have beaten Arsenal and drawn with Manchester United at the bet365 Stadium already this season but any hopes of another notable result were destroyed on the half-hour.

This time it was a mistake from captain Darren Fletcher, his attempted chest-down to Martins Indi going completely awry, and Pedro scampered clear to drive a fine shot across Butland. “That’s why we’re champions,” chanted Chelsea’s travelling support.

Stoke did respond and created their best chance of the first half when Mame Diouf sent an acrobatic overhead kick wide after a sustained period of pressure two minutes before the break.

And their frustration only increased when referee Mike Dean, already unpopular in these parts, booked Marcos Alonso for a swipe at Joe Allen and then failed to dismiss the Chelsea defender 60 seconds later for a foul on Diouf.

It was Alonso’s last contribution of the afternoon, with Conte sensibly taking him off to spare him from what was looking an inevitable red card. Conte claimed afterwards the substitution was made to combat the incoming introduction of Peter Crouch, but it felt like shrewd management to prevent Chelsea from being reduced to ten men.

The entrance of Crouch on the hour told you everything about Stoke’s gameplan and it nearly paid off for the home team.

Crouch was immediately involved, his knockdown from Glen Johnson’s pass presenting Diouf with a chance at the far post but he sliced his shot wide. Fletcher then somehow contrived to miss a simple chance from a few yards out.

That wasted opportunity sparked Chelsea back into life and they eased to the three points when Morata produced a brilliant third goal 13 minutes from time, running from the halfway line down the left flank to advance the area and lift the ball over Butland.

The goal which claimed the hat-trick was far more primitive, poking the ball in from two yards out after Azpilicueta unselfishly chested the ball into his path.

It was a chastening afternoon for Stoke, the bet365 Stadium virtually empty by the final whistle.

Hughes said: “When you spend nearly £60m on a striker you can expect that level of expertise.

“He’s obviously a top quality striker but we contributed to our own downfall. Chelsea had seven shots and he scored three of them. You can’t win games if you make catastrophic errors and we made three of them.

"They will be delighted with a 4-0 scoreline. It has flattered them somewhat.”



Alvaro Morata helps banish memories of Diego Costa as hat-trick fires champions Chelsea past Stoke

Stoke 0 Chelsea 4: The Spaniard scored his first Blues goals with his feet while Pedro added another as Antonio Conte's men thrashed the Potters

Tim Rich

This was supposed to have been the afternoon when Chelsea would regret having fallen out with Diego Costa.

Mark Hughes may like to argue that his club have lost their rough edges but Stoke away is a test of character, of fight and of a will to win. It was a contest Diego would have relished. Instead, Chelsea’s attack was led by a forward, who in the words of his manager, Antonio Conte, is the kind of man you would like your daughter to marry.

Dear, sweet Alvaro Morata, the boy who would turn up on your doorstep with a bunch of flowers, hit a hat-trick and Stoke were routed in their own stadium in a way they have rarely been. After completing his hat-trick, by putting away an assist from Cesar Azpilicueta for the fourth time in his embryonic Chelsea career, he had two more chances to score. He might have had five.

Stoke contributed plenty to their own demise. When they are talked about it is always with the air that a trip to the Potteries carries with it encounters with dragons and trolls. However, when Stoke defend as abysmally as they did here, they are an all-inclusive holiday with transfers from the airport.

With Kurt Zouma ineligible to play against his parent club and Ryan Shawcross injured, Stoke had a threadbare look about them and were punished accordingly.

For Chelsea it was a match played largely in the angular shadow of Atletico Madrid’s new stadium, the Metropolitano, where they will play in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Gary Cahill all began on the bench, although all came on – Cahill because Marcos Alonso was in real danger of getting himself sent off.

All the pre-match debate as to whether these had been sensible risks was washed away in the first 80 seconds. It was time enough for Tiemoue Bakayoko to bring the ball out of defence and for Azpilicueta to launch it long. Like Conte, Hughes had employed three centre-halves but only one, Bruno Martins Indi, was a specialist in the position. The Dutchman failed entirely to read the danger as Morata glided through and brought the ball under control with his first touch and slipped it past Jack Butland with his second.

Having been beaten at Newcastle and in midweek by Bristol City in the League Cup, Stoke needed to haul their way back into this match. They did so in terms of possession but much of their play ran down the right, where Mame Diouf’s crosses were frequently not equal to the task. When the roles were reversed and Joe Allen put the ball into the area, Diouf answered with an overhead kick that scudded wide. For all Stoke’s possession and their considerable firepower, that was as close as they were to come from open play in the first half.

By then, they were already two down. Again, Stoke had committed a basic defensive error, again another of Chelsea’s Spanish forwards had found themselves clear on goal and again they had not missed.

The error came from Darren Fletcher, perhaps the most reliable player in Hughes’s line-up, who in trying to chest down Erik Pieters’s wayward header simply played it into the path of Pedro Rodriguez. His shot blazed past Butland. A one-time Real Madrid player had scored the first, a former Barcelona forward has struck the second and now thoughts could start to drift towards Atletico.

Hughes responded by bringing off Jese for Peter Crouch. You could be snobbish and say this was new Stoke going back to old Stoke but the fact remained that they looked far more dangerous when pumping up the ball to the big man.

There was nothing anyone could do about Morata’s second that began with a run just inside the Stoke half. Fletcher was in weary pursuit for much of it but the finish, from a tight angle, was utterly exquisite. There were 3,000 supporters from Chelsea and, on the basis of that goal alone, most of them would have wanted their daughter to marry the boy from Madrid.

Stoke City (5-3-2): Butland; Diouf, Martins Indi (Affelay 77), Pieters; Fletcher, Allen; Ramadan, Shaqiri, Choupo-Moting, Jese (Crouch 61). Substitutes: Grant (g), Berahino, Tymon, Adam, Souttar.

Chelsea: (3-4-3) Courtois; Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta; Alonso (Cahill 59), Bakayoko, Kante, Moses; Pedro (Fabregas 68), Morata, Willian (Hazard 72). Substitutes: Caballero (g), Musonda, Zappacosta, Batshuayi.

Referee: Mike Dean

Attendance: 29,661



Álvaro Morata strikes treble for Chelsea in crushing defeat of Stoke

Stoke 0 - 4 Chelsea

Stuart James

Antonio Conte was his usual animated self on the touchline, pacing up and down and waving his arms around, yet this was one of those afternoons when the Chelsea manager could have put his feet up, sat back and enjoyed the show as the outstanding Álvaro Morata took centre stage with a superb hat-trick.

Chelsea’s record signing took his tally to an impressive seven goals in seven games in the process and it felt fitting that he should deliver such an outstanding performance at the end of a week when the Premier League champions finally said goodbye to Diego Costa. Diego who?

Few at Chelsea will be pining for Costa’s rampaging presence up front if Morata continues to play with this sort of finesse while also displaying such composure in front of goal. Chelsea’s supporters have already fallen in love with the man Conte described 24 hours earlier as the type of person a father would be happy for his daughter to marry.

Morata’s name was once again ringing out from the away end in the second half, just as it had at Leicester a couple of weeks ago, only this time the words were far more palatable, suggesting that the striker is better than Harry Kane rather than a crude reference to “Yids”.

Time will tell whether Morata can score as prolifically as Kane in the Premier League but on what we have seen so far the 24-year-old will give the England international a run for his money when it comes to the golden boot. Morata’s second here was particularly special and he could easily have ended up with four or five.

Pedro scored the other goal in a comfortable Chelsea victory that provided good preparation for a crucial week with Conte’s players travelling to Atlético Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday and take on Manchester City at Stamford Bridge three days later.

It is a safe bet that neither Atlético nor City will be as obliging opponents as Stoke, who contributed to their own downfall by making what Mark Hughes described as “catastrophic errors”. With two central defenders injured, and Kurt Zouma ineligible to play against his parent club, Hughes was entitled to point to mitigating circumstances, but that was still no excuse for the way Stoke gifted Chelsea their first two goals.

Morata scored the first, with 81 seconds on the clock, and that set the tone. Hughes felt aggrieved that Marcos Alonso escaped with a talking to from Mike Dean, the referee, rather than a second yellow card early in the second half and also suggested that the scoreline flattered Chelsea. That may have been so to an extent, yet there was still no escaping the gulf in class, epitomised by Morata’s display up front.

“Álvaro performed very well,” Conte said. “He scored a hat-trick and for a striker that is very important. Don’t forget the last game against Nottingham Forest the same happened with [Michy] Batshuayi. It means that we create the chances for our strikers to take. I am pleased with his performance and I’m pleased with the performance of the team.”

Conte, rather dubiously, claimed that it was a tactical decision to take Alonso off shortly after the Stoke supporters bayed for the left wing-back to be dismissed following a foul on Mame Diouf. Either way, it was a wise call and prevented Alonso from running the risk of becoming the fourth Chelsea player to be sent off in six league games this season.

By that stage Chelsea were two goals to the good. Morata’s first came about after Bruno Martins Indi, who limped off with a groin strain in the second half to add to Stoke’s defensive woes, was caught ball-watching. Running on to César Azpilicueta’s floated pass, Morata took a touch before prodding coolly past Jack Butland.

Pedro then doubled Chelsea’s lead when he pounced on Darren Fletcher’s mistake and struck a beautifully placed shot from the edge of the area across Butland and into the far corner.

Although Fletcher should have pulled a goal back after the restart with a free header from Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick, there was always a sense that Chelsea had another gear. They found it when Tiémoué Bakayoko charged down Glen Johnson’s clearance and Morata scampered clear on the left. Leaving Fletcher in his wake, Morata showed wonderful composure as he delightfully lifted the ball into the corner with the angle against him.

A tap-in from another Azpilicueta assist completed the rout and Morata’s hat-trick. “He’s a top-quality striker, clearly,” said Hughes.



Stoke 0 - Chelsea 4: Alvaro Morata hat-trick helps Blues forget bad boy Diego Costa

PERHAPS it only took two days for Alvaro Morata to show there is life after Diego Costa.

Perhaps it only took 83 seconds.

Either way, Chelsea did not miss their temperamental talisman, target man and top scorer. On Thursday, they agreed to sell Costa to Atletico Madrid. Today, his successor scored a hat-trick as they secured a win made in Spain.

Pedro got the second goal. Morata got the other three, including a second-minute opener. If he is feeling the pressure of replacing Costa, the cult hero who inspired Chelsea to two league titles, he did not show it. He was too slick and too quick for Stoke. Costa would go to war against defenders. Morata simply sprinted past them.

But, much like Costa, he is scoring when and where it matters. Arsenal had lost in Stoke. Manchester United had dropped points. Chelsea ran riot.

They scored from their first four shots on target. Morata almost got four goals himself. Glen Johnson cleared his late shot off the line. But this was why Chelsea spent a club-record fee on him. This was why he played for Real Madrid and Juventus. “Alvaro performed very well,” said boss Antonio Conte. “He scored a hat-trick and for a striker that’s very important.”

“He’s top quality,” said Stoke boss Mark Hughes. If it was a test if his makeshift defence could stop a £60 million striker, the answer came straight away. They couldn’t. Hughes was without four injured and ineligible centre-backs. The men he selected instead simply stood and watched as Cesar Azpilicueta’s chipped pass was met by Morata.

He slipped a shot past Jack Butland. He beat the goalkeeper again after the one remaining centre-back, Bruno Martins Indi, went off injured. “Once we were down to no centre-backs, they were able to put a little bit of gloss,” added Hughes. Morata then surged clear to score. Then he got a tap-in when Azpilicueta chested the ball to him. The sold Costa had Cesc Fabregas as his personal supply line. Morata keeps being set up by another Spaniard. Defender Azpilicueta has four assists for his six goals.

In contrast, Stoke’s new-look defence were hardly helped by their most experienced midfielder. Stand-in skipper Darren Fletcher led by the wrong sort of example when he tried to chest the ball to Martins Indi, picked out Pedro instead and the winger struck.

“You can’t win Premier League games if you make catastrophic errors and we made at least three,” added Hughes. Stoke also lacked Morata’s accuracy. While Mame Biram Diouf almost scored in spectacular style with an overhead kick, they did not have a shot on target until the 60th minute.

Chelsea’s only alarm came when Marcos Alonso, already booked, fouled Diouf and risked getting their sixth red card in 10 games. “He should have been sent off,” said Hughes. So Conte showed his common sense. He removed Alonso and brought on Gary Cahill. He could afford to start without the captain and Hazard. He needed neither. He certainly did not need Costa. That was the Morata effect.



Stoke 0-4 Chelsea: Alvaro Morata hits hat-trick to fire Antonio Conte's men to victory

The Spaniard hit a treble in the same week Diego Costa left the club


Chelsea continued to show there is life after Diego Costa with another Premier League victory at Stoke, with Alvaro Morata scoring a hat-trick.

Morata, the club-record signing bought to replace Costa, was on the scoresheet again early on before Pedro extended the lead on the half-hour mark.

The game was just over a minute old when Cesar Azpilicueta's long ball forward dissected Stoke's makeshift back line and allowed the lethal Morata to take a touch and finish calmly past Jack Butland.

Chelsea's second goal arrived after 30 minutes and it came from another mistake. Darren Fletcher attempted to chest the ball down to Martins Indi but got the weight wrong, allowing Pedro through on goal to score with a lovely finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Late on, Morata accelerated past Johnson and Fletcher before clipping the ball beyond Butland.

He completed his hat-trick in the 82nd minute when Azpilicueta and Cesc Fabregas combined to lay on a tap-in and seal a fourth win in five Premier League matches for Conte's team.

1. Happy anniversary, Antonio

It was 12 months ago this weekend that Chelsea, 3-0 down against Arsenal at half-time, abandoned a flat back four and manager Antonio Conte resorted to his preferred system of three central defenders plus two wing-backs.

Since then, they have taken a frightening 96 points from 38 Premier League games despite waving their long-serving captain off into the sunset and flogging their fugitive top scorer back to Atletico Madrid.

Conte is about to discover, over the relentless pre-Christmas schedule including a return to Champions League orbit, whether his squad can sustain those high standards.

But seldom, if ever, has there been a such a conspicuous turning point in the fortunes of a club who went on to win the title as Conte's brave call at the Emirates last year.

2. Gone in 81 seconds

Hat-trick hero Alvaro Morata took just 81 seconds to consign Diego Costa's Chelsea career to the past tense.

Diego Who?

Last season's top scorer finally completed his stand-off with the champions by sealing his return to Atletico Madrid in midweek after one of the longest strikes since former miners' leader Arthur Scargill was calling the shots in industrial relations.

But when Bruno Martins Indi was caught ball-watching from Cesar Azpilicueta's speculative long ball, and £70m record signing Morata tucked away his fourth goal of the season expertly, none of Chelsea's 3,222 travelling missionaries in the Potteries were missing Costa one jot.

Morata's second goal to make it 3-0, a superb surge beyond Darren Fletcher and dinked finish over Jack Butland, was pretty tasty, too, and he only needed the faintest of prods from point-blank range to claim the match ball.

There few wish-you-were-here messages for Costa from Stokies, either. Among the many opponents Costa riled with his gift for starting rows in empty rooms was Ryan Shawcross – who missed out through injury here – with an unsubtle hint that the Potters captain suffered from a lack of personal hygiene two years ago.

3. Stoke get the Blues again

Stoke have lost more games against Chelsea than any other side since their return to the Premier League in 2007.

Despite Charlie Adam's monster 60-yard goal at Stamford Bridge two years ago, and the Potters giving Jose Mourinho a hefty shove towards the exit six months later, Stoke's 10-year record against the Blues – played 22, lost 16, drawn three, won three - reads like a threatening letter.

And it isn't going to improve in a hurry if they defend as charitably as Darren Fletcher, whose mistake let Pedro in to fire Chelsea 2-0 up with less than half an hour on the clock here.

4. Dane and dusted

Andreas Christensen made his Premier League debut in a small, compact stadium called Wembley last month, when Chelsea emerged from the swag in a torrid 2-1 win against Tottenham.

Amid the excitement of the Blues unleashing a crop of exciting youngsters from the bench in the Carbao Cup romp against Nottingham Forest in midweek – Jake Salter-Clarke, Dujon Sterling and Ethan Ampadu joining Charly Musonda junior, who started – Christensen has almost slipped under the radar.

Upright, comfortable on the ball and strong in the air, Christensen comes from Denmark but is technically home-grown at Stamford Bridge because he joined Chelsea as a teenager and completed his youth team service in the Blues' academy.

Christensen, 21, stood tall when Stoke peppered the Blues' box with a stream of crosses as they rallied briefly after the interval.

5. Dean and dusted

When Chelsea wing-back Marcos Alonso, who had been booked only two minutes earlier, clattered into Mame Diouf and was spared a second yellow card by referee Mike Dean, the bet365 stadium was in uproar.

“He plays for Stoke, you send him off”, bellowed the Boothen end, and they may have had a point.

If Stoke, who were 2-0 down at the time, had been half an hour against 10 men to retrieve the deficit, you never know what might have happened next.

One bugbear for fans whose natural habitat is outside the Premier League's top six is a perceived big-club favouritism. Dean's lenient interpretation of Alonso's indiscretion only adds weight to that suspicion.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte certainly thought Alonso was treading a fine line, hauling him off to be replaced by England defender Gary Cahill after 58 minutes



Stoke 0 Chelsea 4: Alvaro Morata scores first club hat-trick as Blues run riot

CHELSEA might have lost the master of the dark arts in Diego Costa – but in Alvaro Morata there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.

By Paul Hetherington

Stoke boss Mark Hughes made it clear he thinks his former club are poorer for last Friday’s £67million sale of Costa to Atletico Madrid.

It was Sparky who referred to those “dark arts” when discussing Costa’s eventual return to Atletico after falling out with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte last season.

But Costa’s replacement – Morata – has hit the ground running at the Premier League champions.

In fact, the former Real Madrid and Juventus striker has never been in such good form at the start of a season.It took the £60m signing from Real only 83 seconds to give Chelsea the lead yesterday.

With Gary Cahill on the bench at the start ahead of this week’s Champions League game against Atletico, Cesar Azpilicueta took the captain’s armband.

And it was his early, long ball which caught out a depleted Stoke back line, with Ryan Shawcross, Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Geoff Cameron unavailable.

Morata raced on to Azpilicueta’s pass and calmly steered a right-foot finish wide of Stoke keeper Jack Butland and in to the far corner of the net.

It was Morata’s fourth goal of the season – the previous three all being with his head.

And he went on to score his first hat-trick in England.

In the 78th minute he raced almost half the length of the pitch before producing a neat finish.

And four minutes later Morata turned the ball over the line after Azpilicueta had chested Cesc Fabregas’s pass into his path.

Stoke knew that their unbeaten home record this season, which included a win against Arsenal and draw with Manchester United, was going to be under serious threat from that first Morata goal.

And they had only themselves to blame when Chelsea increased their lead on the half hour.

Skipper Darren Fletcher casually chested the ball back towards his own goal – but only in to the path of the alert Pedro who gratefully hammered a right-foot drive in to the corner of the net, beating the diving Butland.

Stoke needed an inspirational moment to get back in to the match and it almost arrived two minutes before half-time.

But Mame Biram Diouf’s fine overhead effort from Joe Allen’s excellent cross was off target.

Stoke did not have a shot on target until the hour mark, when the lively Xherdan Shaqiri produced a left-foot effort which Thibaut Courtois comfortably held.

But the second half was more uncomfortable for the champions.

Peter Crouch caused problems when he came on as substitute for the anonymous Jese.

The former England target man set up a chance when he won the ball in the air but Diouf – under pressure from Antonio Rudiger – could not keep his shot down.

And with Marcos Alonso walking a disciplinary tightrope after being yellow-carded, Conte sensibly replaced him with Cahill.

Fletcher’s uncharacteristically poor afternoon also saw him fail to convert a chance with his head.

The former Manchester United midfielder miscued and the ball ended up bouncing off his foot and trickling wide.

That was six minutes before the highly-impressive Morata wrapped it up for Chelsea with his second and third goals.

And three minutes from time Glen Johnson cleared off the line to prevent a fourth goal for the Spanish striker.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes said: “We contributed to our own downfall. That’s the story of the game from our point of view.

“If you make catastrophic defensive mistakes against a side like Chelsea, then they are going to punish you.

“But there were extenuating circumstances given the shortage of personnel we had at the back and to make matters worse, we then lose Bruno Martins-Indi with a groin injury.

“But in my view, Alonso should have been sent off and it would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had been playing against ten men.

“Clearly, their manager thought so, too, because he took off Alonso.”

Stoke: Butland 6; Johnson 5, Martins Indi 6 (Afellay (76th) Pieters 5; Diouf 6, Fletcher 5, Allen 7, Sobhi 5; Shaqiri 7, Jese 5 (Crouch (62nd) 6) Choupo-Moting 5

Chelsea: Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 8, Christensen 7, Rudiger 8; Moses 6, Kante 7, Bakayoko 6, Alonso 6 (Cahill (58th) 6); Willian 6 (Hazard (72nd) 6), Morata 9, Pedro 7 (Fabregas (68th) 6)

STAR MAN: Alvaro Morata

Ref: M Dean

Stoke’s next game: Southampton (H), Sept 30

Chelsea’s next game: Atletico Madrid (A), Sept 27

STAT ATTACK: Stoke boss Mark Hughes has faced Chelsea 24 times as a Premier League boss and the former Man United and Chelsea striker has lost 16 times, more than against any other team.



MOR HEROICS Stoke 0 Chelsea 4

Alvaro Morata scores a sublime hat-trick as Antonio Conte’s Blues stroll to comfortable win at bet365 Stadium

Pedro also scored as fears surround Thibaut Courtois, who appeared to play on despite possibly being knocked out

By Charlie Wyett and Dave Fraser

ALVARO MORATA took just 81 seconds to make his mark – and then completed his first hat-trick in English football in a dazzling display of expert finishing.

Not a bad start for a bloke looking to prove himself after Diego Costa finally headed into the sunset and rejoined Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea, who made a number of changes ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Atletico, looks solid enough without getting out of third gear and Morata was the star man.

On the back of Costa finally leaving, Antonio Conte will have been delighted his replacement scored so early and then went on the rampage.

In only the second minute, Cesar Azpilicueta punted the ball long, Bruno Martins Indi appeared to be stuck in quicksand and Morata moved the ball inside the area with one touch before steering it past an exposed Jack Butland.

It was a decent finish and after three headers, this one was with his right boot.

Pedro’s second strike was even better and it was helped by a string of errors with Darren Fletcher the main culprit.

Erik Pieters delivered a weak header into the air, Fletcher chested the ball into the direction of Morata and Martins Indi was once again pedestrian.

Pedro took one touch before delivering a powerful shot across Butland for his first Premier League strike of the season

In the second half, Stoke fans demanded the dismissal of Marcos Alonso after he fouled Mame Biram Diouf having already been on a yellow card.

As a precaution, with the home fans screaming for blood, Alonso was substituted for Gary Cahill.

Meanwhile there was a scary moment as Thibaut Courtois appeared to be knocked out cold contesting a cross... only to play on for the rest of the game.

Fletcher’s bad day continued when he missed an easy chance with Diouf somehow sending the follow-up into the side-netting.

Glen Johnson and Fletcher were then outpaced badly by Morata who charged into the area before delivering a fine finish for 3-0.

With eight minutes left, Morata completed his hat-trick when Azpilicueta chested the ball into his path.


Chelsea manager Antonio Conte told BBC: "It was a good day, a good result for us. Stoke are a really good team and very strong.

"It was very difficult to win here but we deserved to win the game. We started well and scored early and were in control of the game. I repeat, it's not simple to win away against them."

Stoke boss Mark Hughes said: "They will be delighted with a 4-0 score. It has flattered them somewhat.

"We made too many mistakes against a team who can exploit that. Defensive errors took it away from us.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Nottingham Forest 5-1


Chelsea 5 Nottingham Forest 1: Kenedy returns to Chelsea ranks to set up Carabao Cup romp

Matt Law

 Social media and diplomatic relations might not be his thing, but Kenedy offered encouragement that he still might have a career as a Chelsea footballer.

The last time Kenedy did anything of note, Chelsea were forced to issue a grovelling apology in both English and Mandarin after the Brazilian had posted a video on Instagram of a sleeping security guard with the message: “Wake up China. You idiot.”

It was roughly 3am on Thursday morning in China when Kenedy marked his first Chelsea appearance, in the competition sponsored by an energy drink, since being sent home from the pre-season tour in disgrace with a goal against Nottingham Forest.

Quite what Chinese football fans and the newspaper that wrote ‘China does not welcome a player like this; nor does China welcome a team like this’ will make of the fact Kenedy was among Chelsea’s Carabao Cup goalscorers remains to be seen.

But head coach Antonio Conte was delighted with Kenedy’s comeback in the thrashing of Forest that also saw Charly Musonda score on his full debut and Michy Batshuayi net a hat-trick. Chelsea will now face Everton at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round.

 “Kenedy played very well,” said Conte. “He’s working very well, working a lot. He is improving. He has to continue. When there will be the opportunity or any chance, he must exploit it.”

Ethan Ampadu, who turned 17 last week, became the ninth youngest player in Chelsea’s history when he replaced Cesc Fabregas in the second half.

The first contribution of Ampadu was to foul Daniel Fox, who had to be replaced by Tendayi Darikwa and it was the Forest substitute who grabbed the away side’s consolation goal on the final whistle.

Chelsea finished the game with Ampadu, 19-year-old Jake Clarke-Salter and 17-year-old Dejan Sterling all on the pitch as Conte had a look into the club’s future.

“I gave a chance to the young players from our academy and this is very positive,” said Conte. “Ethan has the potential to become a good player. He must continue to work with humility and improve, but we must be pleased for tonight.”

Central defender Luiz had fractured a bone in his wrist when he collided with an advertising hoarding during the Arsenal clash. The Brazilian is now training with a cast on and the injury will not prevent him facing Atletico Madrid in the Champions League next week.

It was Musonda who jinked his way out of trouble to help set up Kenedy’s opener. The Belgian sprayed the ball to Antonio Rudiger, whose cross was coolly cushioned into the net by the Brazilian.

In a lively first-half performance, Kenedy also sent in a low cross from the left that either Batshuayi or Musonda should have converted and smashed a 25-yard drive just over the bar.

Kenedy’s goal had been slightly harsh on Forest, who had started brightly on the 13th anniversary of the great Brian Clough’s death, but the visitors were two down in just the 19th minute.

Eden Hazard, making his first start of the season since undergoing ankle surgery, sent through Batshuayi and the Belgian striker beat Forest goalkeeper Stephen Henderson with a deflected shot.

Forest almost managed a quick reply to reduce Chelsea’s advantage. Cesc Fabregas gave away a free-kick on the edge of his own penalty area and Kieran Dowell was unlucky to see his effort rebound off the crossbar.

But the tie was effectively killed five minutes before the break, when Musonda marked his full debut with a goal. Fabregas laid off the ball to the 20-year-old, who sent an angled effort past the diving Henderson.

Hazard hit the inside of the post just four minutes into the second half and then did brilliantly to hand Batshuayi his second goal of the night on a plate.

Batshuayi completed his hat-trick after Kenedy had struck the Forest bar, before Darikwa pulled a late goal back for the Championship club.



Chelsea 5 Nottingham Forest 1: Michy Batshuayi hat-trick seals victory for rampant Blues

Goals from Kenedy and the impressive Charly Musonda add to rout of Championship side who score late consolation through Tendayi Darikwa

Matt McGeehan

Michy Batshuayi scored a hat-trick as Chelsea provided a glimpse of the future with a 5-1 Carabao Cup rout of Nottingham Forest on Wednesday night.

Kenedy and the impressive Charly Musonda were also on target and Tendayi Darikwa scored a late consolation for Forest as the Premier League champions advanced to the fourth round with ease.

Ethan Ampadu became the first Chelsea player born this millennium, a week after his 17th birthday, on a night when Eden Hazard delighted on his first start of the season after his broken ankle.

A week after the 6-0 Champions League win over Qarabag and following Sunday's goalless draw with Arsenal, Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte rotated his options once again ahead of Saturday's Premier League trip to Stoke.

Nine Chelsea changes and eight for Championship Forest, who lost to Wolves last Saturday and next play John Terry's Aston Villa, showed where the teams' priorities lie.

Michael Mancienne's place in the centre of the Forest defence was a reminder of the Chelsea academy products who have not make the grade. He made six appearances for the Blues between 2006 and 2009.

Musonda and Andreas Christensen were the academy graduates given chances to impress on Wednesday night. Both did so, while Jake Clarke-Salter, Dujon Sterling and Ampadu came off the bench.

Hazard, Batshuayi and Musonda formed an all-Belgium attacking triumvirate which was too much for opponents who also had defensive lapses.

After some early defensive jitters of their own from Kenedy and Willy Caballero, the goalkeeper who was making his debut a week prior to his 36th birthday, Chelsea took the lead.

Kenedy's Blues career looked like it could be coming to an end when he was sent home from the pre-season tour to Asia following some ill-advised social media posts on China. He apologised and has been reintegrated into the squad.

The Brazilian scored his first goal since March 2016 when he ghosted behind the Forest defence to meet Antonio Rudiger's cross with a side-footed shot that beat goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.

Next came some good fortune as Hazard's through ball took a deflection off Jack Hobbs and Batshuayi showed composure to finish.

Kieran Dowell curled a free-kick onto the crossbar for Forest, who, having come close to halving it, saw their deficit increase.

Cesc Fabregas found Musonda inside the right edge of the area and the Belgian fired the ball under Henderson for his first Chelsea goal.

Musonda prodded wide from another Fabregas pass before half-time and Hazard struck a post soon after the restart after making space for himself on the left edge of the area.

Hazard then raced on to a long Fabregas pass and deceived Henderson. He might have scored himself but instead passed for Batshuayi to roll the ball in.

Dowell shot narrowly over before Fabregas was replaced by Ampadu, who signed from Exeter in the summer with a fee still to be settled with the Devon club. Ampadu did not look out of place.

Chelsea scored a fifth when Kenedy's shot from a tight angle bounced back off the bar and in off Batshuayi's lap for his third.

There was still time for Forest to score, as Darikwa netted with the final kick of the game.



Batshuayi hits treble and Musonda excels as Chelsea silence Forest

Chelsea 5 - 1 Nottm Forest

Ed Aarons at Stamford Bridge

Charly Musonda Jr had waited five years for his opportunity and even on his compatriot Eden Hazard’s long-awaited return to the starting line-up, he was not to be upstaged.

The baby-faced forward spent last season on loan at Real Betis but has been forced to sit by patiently for a Chelsea debut ever since arriving at the club as a 15-year-old in 2012. A brilliant performance capped by the third goal as Michy Batshuayi also scored a hat-trick in this thrashing of a poor visiting side ensured it was worth the wait.

“I think Charly played very well,” the Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte, said. “He’s trying to work a lot to improve his physical impact with this league. Don’t forget this league is very strong in the physical aspect. We are working a lot with Charly in this aspect to be ready to play in this league. For sure, he’s a talented player, and he has to continue in this way. When there is the opportunity, the chance, to help us, he must do this.”

On the 13th anniversary of Brian Clough’s death, the Chelsea pitch announcer had paid tribute to the man who led Forest to two successive European Cups before the match. But this powderpuff display in a competition Clough won four times was a reminder of how far they have fallen, having now failed to reach the fourth round since the year Old Big ’Ead passed away.

Watched from the stands by their owner, Evangelos Marinakis, the Forest manager, Mark Warburton, made eight changes from the side that lost at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday to leave them 10th in the Championship. Conte went one better, as only Gary Cahill and Cesc Fàbregas retained their places after the stalemate against Arsenal at the weekend.

Hazard formed an all-Belgian frontline alongside Batshuayi and the 20-year-old Musonda, one of four brothers to have passed through Chelsea’s academy and the son of a former Zambia midfielder, also called Charly. But it was one of Chelsea’s less vaunted prospects who opened the scoring in the 12th minute, as Kenedy – making his first appearance since being sent home from the pre-season tour to China – timed his run perfectly to meet Antonio Rüdiger’s deep cross at the back post to volley home.

Batshuayi made it 2-0 six minutes later when Hazard’s clever through ball from the edge of the area found its way to his feet via a deflection. A curling free-kick from the impressive Everton loanee Kieran Dowell that cannoned off the bar was the best Forest could muster in response, before Musonda effectively ended the tie five minutes before half-time as he drilled home Fàbregas’s pass from a tight angle before celebrating his goal with a full swan dive in front of the West stand.

Chelsea picked up where they had left off after the break, with Hazard setting up Batshuayi for his second of the evening after a glorious long pass from Fàbregas. The Spaniard then made way for the 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu, who joined from Exeter City in the summer having broken Cliff Bastin’s record as the youngest player in the club’s history, to make his debut.

Another versatile teenager, Dujon Sterling, was also handed a late cameo at right wing-back for Chelsea as Forest attempted to salvage some pride, which eventually came via the last kick of the game from the substitute Tendayi Darikwa after Batshuayi had completed his hat-trick. But the night belonged to Musonda.



Chelsea 5-1 Nottingham Forest: Michy Batshuayi hat-trick helps Blues earn victory in Carabao Cup as Eden Hazard gets full run-out at Stamford Bridge

By Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail

Little has been seen of Kenedy since the Brazilian was sent home in disgrace from Chelsea's pre-season tour in China after insulting the world's most populous nation.

He has been lying low since offensive posts on social media which included a photograph of a sleeping security guard tagged with the message: 'Wake up China you idiot.'

On Wednesday night, the idiot stirred and caught Nottingham Forest napping, opened the scoring on his first appearance of the season and set Chelsea on an course for a date with Everton in the last-16 of the Carabao Cup.

Charly Musonda also celebrated his full debut with a goal and Michy Batshuayi claimed the match-ball home after a hat-trick which owed much to the skill of others.

Two of Batshuayi's goals were created by the outstanding Eden Hazard and his third was a fierce Kenedy shot which rebounded off the bar and hit the striker in the chest before bouncing into the goal.

Forest pulled one back with the last kick of the tie, an untidy goal converted by substitute Tendayi Darikwa, but this was every bit as comfortable as the result might suggest for the Premier League champions and another triumph for the squad rotation policy of Antonio Conte.

The Chelsea boss made nine changes from Sunday's goalless draw against Arsenal, and sent on three teenagers from the bench when the game was already won.

Among them was Ethan Ampadu, a midfielder who moved from Exeter in the summer and signed his first professional contract after turning 17, last week.

Ampadu became the ninth youngster Chelsea player and the first player born in this millennium to represent the club. His first contribution was an over-enthusiastic tackle which forced Danny Fox off.

'It is very positive for us,' said Conte. 'I gave the chance to the young players from our academy and the answer was very good. I hope this can improve their confidence.'

Chelsea were in control from the 13th minute when Kenedy scored his first goal for 18 months, tucking away a deep cross by Antonio Rudiger.

'Kenedy played very well,' said Conte, but the manager failed to acknowledge questions about the pre-season episode in China. 'He's working very well, improving. He has to continue. When there is the opportunity he must exploit it.'

Forest flickered briefly after Batshuayi stabbed in the second. Kieran Dowell hit the bar with a free-kick but the visitors from the Championship slipped three behind when Musonda drove a shot low under goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.

Hazard hit a post, early in the second-half, and created the fourth for Batshuayi with a burst clear onto a ball from Cesc Fabregas and a dummy which took the 'keeper out of the game.

Chelsea eased through to the final whistle and Batshauyi seemed slightly embarrassed to complete his treble in bizarre style.

'You can't concede soft goals,' said Forest boss Mark Warburton. 'Against really good players we were too soft at times. We took liberties on the edge of our own box. Against that level of play you will be punished.'

CHELSEA (3-4-3): Caballero 6; Rudiger 6, Christensen 6 (Clarke-Salter 70, 6), Cahill 6; Zappacosta 6 (Sterling 76, 6), Fabregas 7 (Ampadu 56, 6), Bakayoko 6, Kenedy 7; Hazard 7.5, Batshuayi 6.5, Musonda 6.5.

GOALS: Kenedy 13, Batshuayi 19, 53, 86, Musonda 40

BOOKINGS: Fabregas

SUBS: Eduardo, Willian, Moses, Morata.

MANAGER: Antonio Conte 7

FOREST (3-5-2): Henderson 5; Worrall 5, Hobbs 5, Mancienne 5; Lichaj 5, Dowell 5.5 (Clough 74, 5), Bouchalakis 5, Osborn 5.5, Fox 5 (Darikwa 60, 5); Walker 5 (Brereton 65, 5), Cummings 5.

GOALS: Darikwa 90+1


SUBS: Smith, McKay, Carayol, Vellios

MANAGER: Mark Warburton 5

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Arsenal 0-0


Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0: Gunners claim moral victory from London derby as they end five-match losing streak at Stamford Bridge

Matt Law

It may not have been a first Premier League win away against one of the so-called ‘big six’ since January 2015, but Arsenal will claim a moral victory from this London derby after giving their travelling fans encouragement they might not have to suffer a season of embarrassment.

Arsene Wenger’s men should really have secured a proper victory, as they squandered the best opportunities and had a man advantage for the final minutes after David Luiz was sent-off. But the Arsenal supporters who stayed behind to applaud their team are just relieved not to be going to work to face the same old jokes.

The fact a goalless draw was achieved at Stamford Bridge without the injured Mesut Ozil will not have gone unnoticed by those aware that Arsenal’s last significant away win came against Manchester City without the German. Ozil has often been accused of not turning up for the big games even when he has been on the pitch and it was clear that Arsenal were not carrying any passengers against Chelsea, as Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette forced the Blues defenders to look backwards and sideways with their passing.

An Arsenal defence that has so often been bullied into submission by Diego Costa also stood up to the test with Shkodran Mustafi getting the better of Costa’s replacement, Alvaro Morata, who was eventually booked for letting his frustration get the better of him.

The commitment of Alexis Sanchez may well be questioned once again as he appeared to find record signing Lacazette’s contender for miss of the season funny from the substitutes’ bench, but this was not a performance that will see the attitude of Arsenal’s players come under the spotlight once again.

Sanchez was dropped back down to the bench, where Olivier Giroud also started, after playing 90 minutes in the Europa League victory over Cologne. With Sanchez and Giroud both watching from the sidelines during the first half, the responsibility to threaten Chelsea’s goal fell to Welbeck and Lacazette, and the pair missed the best chances of the game.

Welbeck headed over the crossbar from Hector Bellerin’s cross, while Lacazette could not believe he did not find the back of the net four minutes before the break. Aaron Ramsey went on a brilliant, winding run into the penalty area, which took him past Cesar Azpilicueta, and the Welshman’s shot rebounded off the post. Lacazette looked to have the simple task of tucking the ball into the net, but instead lifted it over the bar from four yards.

While Wenger and the rest of the Arsenal bench held their heads in their hands, Sanchez could be seen slapping the back of David Ospina with a big smile on his face.

Conte decided Eden Hazard was not yet fit enough to start his first game of the season for Chelsea, while Costa, who has previously enjoyed facing Arsenal, was still nowhere to be seen. That left Morata flanked by Pedro and Willian, and it was Pedro who failed to take Chelsea’s best and only clear opportunity. Having seen an early shot saved by Petr Cech, Pedro was sent through on goal by Cesc Fabregas in the 21st minute. It seemed certain the former Barcelona man would give the home side the lead, but Cech managed to keep the ball out with an outstretched hand.

Chelsea struggled to create chances and impose themselves on Arsenal, which was highlighted by the fact Cech’s most significant action of the first half, other than saving from Pedro, was controlling a back pass from Nacho Monreal that could have easily resulted in an own goal.

Morata has three goals for Chelsea, all with his head, but needs time to acclimatise to the physical nature of the Premier League. The ball rarely stuck to him when it was played into the former Real Madrid man’s feet and more often than not he was left on his backside by Mustafi. Morata had been getting increasingly annoyed by being knocked to the floor by Mustafi, but the striker earned a booking when he attempted to give the Arsenal defender a taste of his own medicine.

Mustafi went closer to breaking the deadlock than Morata, but saw a header ruled out for offside after he had already started his celebrations in front of the Arsenal fans, one of whom had made it on to the pitch.

In terms of who blinked first in looking for some magic from the bench, it was Wenger as he replaced Lacazette with Sanchez with just under 25 minutes remaining. But it only took three more minutes for Conte to send on Hazard in place of Willian.

Hazard almost conjured what would have been a special winner. The Belgian collected a pass from N’Golo Kante and danced around Granit Xhaka before cutting in to fire a shot towards goal that was well held by Cech.

But Chelsea’s hopes of snatching a late winner were effectively ended, when Luiz was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Sead Kolasinac. It was Chelsea’s third successive red card against Arsenal and fifth in their last eight games, stretching back to last season’s FA Cup final.

A more confident Arsenal may have pounced on the chance to take all three points, but this was their first point at Stamford Bridge in six years and these days Wenger’s men are more than happy to simply avoid a beating.



Chelsea 0-0 Arsenal: David Luiz loses the plot and sees red as bad blood spills over in stalemate

By Matt Barlow for the Daily Mail

The prospect of a tense struggle, low on goals first appeared when the team-sheets confirmed this London derby would begin without Eden Hazard, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud.

With Diego Costa also absent, presumed sulking in Brazil, it meant four players who between them scored 72 in the Premier League last season had been omitted.

None of them were technically injured but caution was the name of the game, as if an amnesty on flair had been agreed.

By the end, Sanchez, Hazard and Giroud were on all – Costa was still missing naturally – caution had been thrown to the wind and the contest had descended into a shapeless mess of ill tempers and squandered chances.

Expensive summer recruits such as Alex Lacazette and Alvaro Morata has proved to be too easily shackled. Back-three were back-fives and these defensive units were firmly on top.

All of which seemed to be too much for David Luiz, who, although already booked, lost his rag and launched himself over the ball and into a needless challenge on Sead Kolasinac.

The pair had been engaged in a niggling row, moments earlier, when Luiz blocked a run by the Bosnian wing-back and Antonio Conte claimed Sanchez had been winding up his Brazilian centre-half.

Nevertheless, as Kolasinac gripped his shin and writhed in pain referee Michael Oliver flashed a straight red for violent play.

A second yellow would have been impossible to dispute but the key difference is a longer suspension.

Luiz, slave that he is to entertainment, had already been booked by Oliver for a high boot, kicking Laurent Koscielny in the face while attempting an over-head kick.

Liverpool's Sadio Mane might be wondering why he wasn't dismissed at this point.

The straight red card came later and it means the champions will be without Luiz, their defensive keystone, for the three games: Nottingham Forest, Stoke away and, crucially, Manchester City.

He is the fourth Chelsea player dismissed this season, including Pedro in the FA Community Shield, and the fifth in eight games, stretching back to the Victor Moses dive in the FA Cup final.

Three of the five against Arsenal, which is a reversal of fortunes from the days when wind-up artist Costa was parading in Chelsea blue.

The Luiz flashpoint served to trigger a breathless closing sequence. Every tackle drew an exaggerated reaction, every decision was challenged and the crowd came to life.

There were no goals, however, and Arsenal left with a point from Stamford Bridge for the first-time for nearly six years.

It was no more than they deserved. Wenger's team had looked far more solid without Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who was ruled out by a knee injury.

Against his instincts, the Arsenal boss sacrificed creativity for the work-rate of Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi and his team dominated in midfield, where Aaron Ramsey was outstanding.

Ramsey created the best chance for the visitors, moments before half-time, with a powerful run into the penalty box and a shot which beat Thibaut Courtois and struck a post.

The rebound spun at an awkward height towards Lacazette who could not adjust in time and screwed his effort wildly off target.

Cameras caught Sanchez, laughing on the bench and slapping David Ospina on the back.

Ospina did not appear to share the joke. Nor did Wenger. Having suffered early in the game, Arsenal were on top and the champions were hanging out for the sanctuary of half-time.

Hector Bellerin's pace caused problems for Marcos Alonso. Welbeck headed one chance wide from one Bellerin cross and Lacazette turned another on target only to be foiled by Courtois.

Kolasinac tested the goalkeeper from long range and Granit Xhaka fired a 30-yarder narrowly wide.

Chelsea's best chance fell to Pedro, released by a passed clipped over the top by Cesc Fabregas, midway through the first-half. Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech stood firm, held his nerve and made a vital block.

Pedro did not return after the break. Conte said he had hurt his ankle and sent on Tiemoue Bakayoko which gave Chelsea more muscle in the centre of the pitch, where his team had been overwhelmed before the interval.

Chelsea performed with more purpose and menace. Willian and Hazard forced saves from Cech.

Arsenal lost Welbeck with a groin injury as the rhythms of the game were disrupted by stoppages and substitutions.

Shkodran Mustafi who excelled in the centre of Wenger's back-three, nullifying the threat of Morata, thought he had grabbed a late winner when he met a free-kick swung into the goalmouth by Xhaka.

Mustafi danced away in delight but a flag was up and replays confirmed it was the correct decision.

The game was destined to be goalless which did neither team much good.

Chelsea trail three points behind leaders Manchester City and Arsenal, for all the encouragement of a point at the Bridge, are six points adrift after five games.

Wenger's team continue to labour away from home against their top-six rivals and a fine point could not halt a run of nearly three years without such a victory.

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Courtois 6.5, Azpilicueta 7, Cahill 6.5, Luiz 6, Moses 6.5, Kante 8, Fabregas 7, Alonso 6.5, Willian 6.5 (Hazard 69, 6), Pedro 6 (Bakayoko 46, 7), Morata 6 (Christensen 88).

Subs not used: Caballero, Rudiger, Zappacosta, Batshuay.

Manager: Antonio Conte 6.5

Bookings: Luiz, Morata

Sent off: Luiz

Arsenal (3-4-2-1): Cech 7, Koscielny 8.5, Mustafi 8, Monreal 7, Bellerin 6.5, Ramsey 7.5, Xhaka 5.5, Kolasinac 6.5, Welbeck 6.5 (Giroud 72, 6), Iwobi 6 (Elneny 79, 6), Lacazette 6 (Sanchez 65, 6).

Subs not used: Mertesacker, Ospina, Walcott, Maitland-Niles.

Manager: Arsene Wenger 7

Bookings: Bellerin, Kolasinac, Elneny

Referee: Michael Oliver



David Luiz sees red as Arsenal hold Chelsea in stalemate at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 0 - 0 Arsenal

Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

By the time this contest erupted three minutes from time it is safe to assume both managers may actually have accepted the whole occasion fizzling out as a goalless non-event. Chelsea had been surprised by the visitors’ tenacity and refusal to wilt and had only generated the upbeat tempo that can set them apart in sporadic bursts. A point almost felt like a bonus. Arsenal, saddled with that wretched recent record both against the recent top six and here in particular, would have been delighted merely to check a five-match losing streak in this corner of the capital. A draw represented progress.

Yet, given the rather frazzled nature of the latter stages, this game was never likely to pass off entirely without incident. Frustration had been mounting all afternoon, with David Luiz and Sead Kolasinac’s duels increasingly spiky and played out all over the field. Alexis Sánchez’s introduction seemed to raise the locals’ hackles even more. Then, three minutes from time, the Brazilian centre-back became preoccupied trying to shield the loose ball from the Chilean as Sánchez grappled at him from behind. In darted Kolasinac to thump the ball in-field, with David Luiz, flustered, diving in and catching the Bosnian on the base of his left shin.

The defender had already been booked earlier in the period, for an overhead kick that connected with Laurent Koscielny inside the Arsenal penalty area, but Michael Oliver flourished a straight red to spark a melee on the touchline. Antonio Conte led the protests, barking his fury at the official having strode, incensed, into Wenger’s technical area.

The Italian has already endured the absence of Gary Cahill for three games this term and Cesc Fàbregas for one, as ramifications of the chaotic opening day loss to Burnley. Now he will be without the linchpin of his defence for games against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup, Stoke City and, most significantly, Manchester City at the end of a draining month.

The flashpoint provided the snarl at the end of the stalemate, leaving Chelsea’s head coach reflecting upon a disciplinary record of five red cards in his side’s last eight domestic matches, taking into account those shown to Pedro and Victor Moses in recent meetings with these opponents at Wembley. The more damning statistic is probably three dismissals in five Premier League games, the same number as in their previous 73 fixtures.

Conte described that as “strange” and spoke of a need to work on discipline and decision-making in the same way he makes his players address tactical or physical deficiencies, although he added there was a need, too, “to be more lucky with the refereeing decisions”. Had Oliver spotted Sánchez’s perceived fouls, he argued, then it might never have come to this. Even so, David Luiz should have known better.

His rush of blood did not cost Chelsea the point. Arsenal’s profligacy arguably cost them their chance to take all three, so dominant had the visitors been through most of the first half once they had survived Pedro’s burst unchecked on to Fàbregas’s pass. Petr Cech saved the visitors on that occasion but, from then on in, Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey exerted a stranglehold on midfield that had not been in the pre-match script. Shkodran Mustafi was commanding at the heart of the visitors’ backline and Cech was inspired when required against his former club. There were times when Chelsea were crying out for the brawn of Diego Costa just to bully the Arsenal rearguard into submission. As impressive as Álvaro Morata has been, this was an education.

Arsenal should have forged ahead in that first half, when Tiémoué Bakayoko was still kicking his heels on the home bench and the visitors commanded the centre. Twice around the quarter-hour mark they sliced Chelsea apart down the champions’ left. First Alex Iwobi liberated the galloping Héctor Bellerín only for Danny Welbeck, who would later depart with a groin problem, to plant a header wide. Seconds later it was Ramsey who picked his moment cleverly to send Bellerín beyond Marcos Alonso to the byline, with Thibaut Courtois eventually smothering Alexandre Lacazette’s attempt to guide in a shot at the near post.

Both chances were impressively created and the fact they had been passed up felt wasteful. But it was another, squeezed out four minutes from half-time, which had those on the visitors’ bench cursing. Yet again it was Ramsey, revelling in central midfield, who cut Chelsea open, easing away from Fàbregas and then swerving beyond César Azpilicueta and David Luiz in the penalty area to poke a shot on to the far post. Courtois was helpless, Cahill caught on his heels, yet Lacazette’s awkward attempt to convert the rebound flew high and wide of a gaping goal.

Chelsea improved, at least, after the interval, with Bakayoko impressive in their midst and Eden Hazard offering a fine cameo from the bench, but Arsenal were steeled where, in previous years, they have obligingly succumbed. They thought they had finally prised apart the hosts when, 15 minutes from time, Xhaka’s free-kick was nodded home by Mustafi only for an offside flag to choke the celebrations.

This visit would not yield a first win here since 2011 but the visitors still departed encouraged. “With the attitude and determination, it was vital for us to come out with a solid performance,” Wenger said, memories of that thrashing at Liverpool still raw. “We did that.”



A good point for Arsenal from a bad game as 10-man Chelsea inexplicably fall flat at Stamford Bridge

Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0: Luiz's late lunge on Sead Kolasinac was one of the few talking points from a surprisingly low key affair

Miguel Delaney

A good point for Arsenal, but from a bad game, that was only otherwise notable for some bad misses and one bad challenge from David Luiz. The Chelsea centre-half’s late red card for a rash challenge on Sead Kolasinac was the main piece of action from this mostly dull 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, and he will now miss the champions’ home match against Manchester City. Few, however, will mind missing the highlights of this match - not that there were many beyond a handful wasted opportunities.

A surprisingly flat Chelsea meanwhile wasted the chance to beat an Arsenal that did not start Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez, but there was still the odd feeling that Arsenal could have got something more. They at least didn’t get beat, for the first time in this fixture since 2011. That is a positive.

Arsenal did not have Ozil or Sanchez but did seemingly have a plan - something that did make a big change from previous visits to Stamford Bridge.

They were even the better team for much of the first half. Although Chelsea had more of the ball, it was Wenger’s side that had the better of the chances and should probably have been ahead. Sure, Alvaro Morata headed wide when in front of goal and Pedro squandered a one-on-one, but those misses still weren’t as stunning as Alexandre Lacazette’s. The French striker somehow put the ball over the bar from just four yards out, after Aaron Ramsey bundled through the Chelsea box to hit the post. Danny Welbeck had earlier headed wide from a similarly close position, if not so presentable an opportunity, and it summed up the generally low technical quality of the game up to then.

Arsenal’s tactical discipline nevertheless raised questions over the superior organisation of the sides without their two stars, and whether this was a glimpse of the future.

They just didn't really maximise that momentum.

Chelsea did rally in the second half and began to take control, but they struggled to create proper chances. Eden Hazard didn’t start the game, as he is still recovering from the ankle injury suffered at the start of the summer, but Conte did eventually bring him on and the champions finally started to look a bit freer in attack and more like themselves.

They almost took the lead when the Belgian burst through the backline with a jinking run, but his firm shot was well held by Petr Cech.

Wenger had finally brought on Sanchez by that point, but he couldn’t really get into the game. Arsenal did have the ball in the net on 76 minutes, after Shkodran Mustafi had headed in a set-piece but his celebrations were disrupted by the offside flag. Wenger’s side were struggling to get any kind of flow then, as Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’Golo Kante disrupted pretty much every move.

It said much that the French manager also brought on Olivier Giroud, but Arsenal couldn’t really get the ball to him because by then they couldn’t get the ball. Cesc Fabregas was starting to assert control - until David Luiz lost control.

The sweeper was running with the ball down the right on 88 minutes, and trying to shake off Alexis Sanchez only to lose the ball and then go in rashly on Kolasinac. The left-back was writhing in pain on the ground, leaving Michael Oliver no option but to show the red card.

Arsenal almost took advantage of the extra man straight away, but Nacho Monreal’s shot was blocked.

There was a bit of spike to the game at that point - but still no special quality, still nothing to elevate it, leaving both sides to play out an ultimately flat draw.

After the exhibition by Manchester City at Watford, it wasn’t exactly a performance to strike fear. Both just struck out.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

FK Karabakh (Qarabag) 6-0


Chelsea 6 Qarabag 0: Davide Zappacosta marks full debut with goal as half-strength hosts run riot

Matt Law

Diego Costa may not be in Chelsea’s Champions League squad as he still tries to engineer a move back to Atletico Madrid, but the Stamford Bridge crowd do at least have a new Costa of sorts to chant the name of.

The transfer deadline day signing of Davide Zappacosta from Torino was most notable for the similarity between the right wing-back’s name and that of Chelsea’s AWOL striker.

Certainly, nobody was expecting Zappacosta to help make up for the loss of last season’s top scorer in terms of goals.

But Zappacosta marked his Chelsea and Champions League full debut with an accidental strike that had Stamford Bridge singing his name and helped the club thrash Qarabag on their return to European competition.

He may not have meant it, but Zappacosta will cherish his mishit Champions League cross that flew into the Qarabag net. The 25-year-old may also be surprised to learn that the goal puts him within one of Costa’s tally for Chelsea in the competition.

Sources in Spain claimed that Costa arrived in Madrid on Tuesday in an attempt to hasten a move to Atletico, but at least Zappacosta is already settling into life in West London.

He turned provider at the end to set up Maksim Medvedev’s own-goal, as Chelsea, who had five different scorers in Pedro, Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi, ran riot in the final 19 minutes.

Spare a thought for visiting captain Rashad Sadygov. Earlier in the day he had overseen a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea for the club’s Under-19 team in the UEFA Youth League in his other job as Qarabag’s youth coach.

Sadygov left that game early in order to prepare for the senior side’s first-ever appearance in the Champions League and suffered an even heavier loss than the club’s youngsters.

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte made five changes to the team that won at Leicester City and gave Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard a rest ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Arsenal.

Pedro was one of the players asked to start his second game in four days and the Spaniard did not show any signs of fatigue, as he gave Chelsea a fifth-minute lead.

Conte had recalled Willian and it was the Brazilian who collected a short corner and teed up Pedro to curl the ball into the net from the edge of the penalty area.

Any notion that Conte was taking it easy against Qarabag was quickly dispelled as he celebrated Pedro’s opener in his usual enthusiastic and slightly manic style.

But he was soon remonstrating angrily at his assistants after Batshuayi, who Conte tried to replace with Fernando Llorente in the final days of the transfer window, was slow to react to Willian’s saved shot and eventually scuffed the ball into the side-netting.

It is only 16 years ago that Qarabag could not afford kit or travel costs for domestic games and their qualification for the Champions League was celebrated like a public holiday in Azerbaijan.

Qarabag manager Gurban Gurbanov would have been encouraged with how his team had reacted to going behind early, but they were left with a mountain to climb once Zappacosta marked his Stamford Bridge bow with a stunning, if highly fortunate, goal on the half-an-hour mark.

The right wing-back, who was preferred to Victor Moses, advanced down the flank before sending the ball over Qarabag goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic and into the net.

Zappacosta admitted afterwards that he had mishit his attempted cross, but neither the Italian nor the majority of the Stamford Bridge crowd cared.

And five minutes later Zappacosta almost had a second goal as he fired a shot inches wide of the post.

Marcos Alonso tried his own version of Zappacosta’s goal from the left side towards the end of the first half, but the Spaniard shanked his effort straight into the Qarabag supporters.

It took Chelsea just 10 minutes of the second half to effectively kill the game, as Azpilicueta netted his first-ever Champions League goal.

Cesc Fabregas will be concerned that his appearance against Qarabag could mean that he misses out on a start against his former club Arsenal, but the midfielder did not let it impact on his performance.

Having pulled the strings in the middle of the pitch, Fabregas sent over a superb ball for Azpilicueta to head into the net unmarked.

If Qarabag hoped that Chelsea would take their foot off the gas with a three-goal advantage, then they were mistaken as Conte sent on Hazard and Bakayoko.

Hazard was quickly involved, as he laid the ball off for Willian to fire a shot against the top of the crossbar and Bakayoko grabbed his first Chelsea goal with just under 20 minutes remaining.

A cross from Hazard was not dealt with by the visiting defence and Bakayoko reacted to prod the ball into the net for Chelsea’s fourth.

It got even worse for Qarabag, as Batshuayi got off the mark for the season with a goal that should lift his confidence and earned a full-time hug from Conte.

There was still time for Zappacosta to complete a memorable personal evening by turning provider. He bustled his way down the right and crossed for Batshuayi, but Qarabag defender Medvedev bundled the ball into his own net ahead of the former Marseille man.



Chelsea 6-0 Qarabag:

Eden Hazard returns to action as Davide Zappacosta rocket helps Antonio Conte's side to open Champions League account in style

Sterner tests await, that is certain, but Chelsea made an emphatic return to the Champions League and may have discovered a new cult hero.

Davide Zappacosta marked his home debut with an outrageous goal. In truth, it was a fluke and yet it lifted Stamford Bridge and stunned Qarabag, the minnows from Azerbaijan.

Never mind Diego Costa, still AWOL amid reports he was in Madrid inching towards a move to Atletico, all hail Zappacosta with his striking surname and apparent mastery of the cleverly-disguised cross.

His strike was the second of the night and he was still charging up the flank to create the sixth for Michy Batshuayi in the closing minutes.

Pedro Rodriguez soothed Antonio Conte's nerves with a fifth-minute opener and Cesar Azpilicueta nodded in the third, soon after the interval.

Tiemoue Bakayoko, on as a substitute, scored his first Chelsea goal with the help of a deflection and Batshuayi helped himself to a couple as the visitors from Azerbaijan wilted.

More importantly for Conte, here was a fourth successive victory since the shock defeat against Burnley. The Premier League champions are gathering momentum, a commodity he values highly.

Since transfer window closed, Chelsea are looking once again like the ruthless machine they were last year: intense and focused on whatever task is to hand, revved-up by a high-energy manager on the touchline.

Conte claimed there were risks involved in resting five players against a team with nothing to lose on their Champions League debut.

With Atletico Madrid and Roma to come, he was aware no cheap points could afford to be surrendered at this stage.

Ahead of the game he explained about the energy-sapping sequence of seven games in 21 days which culminates against Manchester City.

As it turned out, Qarabag made it easier for him. They made a bright enough start, twice getting in behind Marcos Alonso in the first two minutes before Chelsea took a grip and refused to let go.

Ibrahim Sehic, in goal for the visitors, began what was to be a busy shift with saves from Alonso and Batshuayi.

Then he was beaten for the first time by Pedro, who swept a first-time strike inside the post when Willian collected a short corner and found him on the fringes of the penalty area.

Willian forced another save from Sehic and Batshuayi was unable to convert the rebound before Zappacosta introduced himself to his new public at Stamford Bridge.

Half an hour had gone when the athletic wing-back, signed from Torino on deadline day, strode across the halfway line, shrugging off two challenges as he went.

He glanced up to check his options – Batshauyi and Pedro were up in support - and then he bamboozled Sehic with a mishit cross which swerved over the head of the goalkeeper and into the net.

The Italian admitted afterwards: 'I'm really happy. It was a dream debut, scoring at Stamford Bridge. I'm happy for myself, but mainly for the victory to get us going well in the Champions League. To be honest I wanted to cross it, but I caught it well and it ended up in the goal. The aims are to go as far as possible.

'We're working hard to get out the group and into the next round. It's an open group and they've welcomed me well. I hope it continues!

Fluke or not, the unlikely scorer wheeled away and basked in the reaction as Chelsea fans sang: 'Zappacosta, he scores when he wants'.

Victor Moses, his rival for the role on the right, was jokingly cuddled by Willy Caballero and David Luiz amid much hilarity on the subs' bench.

When the ball came Zappacosta's way again, the home crowd encouraged him to go for goal. This time he could not oblige but any trace of tension was gone.

No-one expected Qarabag to find a way back into this, including the visitors, it seemed. With a remarkable back-story, they have made impressive progress from the brink of extinction and are in Group C for the experience.

On this evidence will take a few beatings. Chelsea cruised through the second-half and Azpilicueta celebrated his first Champions League goal with a simple header.

Willian rolled a free-kick short to Cesc Fabregas who was afforded all the time he needed to find his fellow Spaniard with a clipped pass from the outside of his right boot.

Azpilicueta nodded it past Sehic from eight yards. It was the cue for Conte to start making changes and replace those who will be central to his plans against Arsenal on Sunday.

Arsene Wenger's team will play on Thursday in the Europa League in what promises to be a tougher test against Cologne. You can almost hear the excuses, already.

Willian rattled the bar with a dipping shot and Bakayoko's goal came from a cross by Eden Hazard and some heavy-legged defending in the penalty area.

Batshuayi got in on the act with his first goals of the season, both from close-range. Chelsea made the right impression as they returned to the Champions League and Conte's squad kept plenty in the tank for Arsenal.

CHELSEA (3-4-3): Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 6 (Rudiger 74, 5), Christensen 6, Cahill 6; Zappacosta 7.5, Fabregas 7, Kante 7 (Bakayoko 63, 6), Alonso 6; Willian 7, Pedro 6.5 (Hazard 58, 6); Batshuayi 7.

GOALS: Pedro 5, Zappacosta 30, Azpilicueta 55, Bakayoko 71, Batshuayi 76, 82


UNUSED SUBS: Caballero, Rudiger, Morata, Moses, Luiz

MANAGER: Antonio Conte 7.

QARABAG (4-4-1-1): Sehic 5; Medvedev 5, Huseynov 5, Sadygov 5 (Madatov 70, 5), Rzezniczak 5; Garayev 5 (Diniyev 70, 5); Henrique 6 (Elyounoussi 77), Michel 5, Almeida 5, Guerrier 5; Ndlovu 5.

UNUSED SUBS: Kanibolotskiy, Amirguliyev, Ismayilov, Yunuszada.

MANAGER: Gurban Gurbanov 5

MOM: Zappacosta

REFEREE: Tasos Sidiropoulos (GRE) 6




Pedro sets Chelsea on their way to 6-0 stroll against Qarabag
Chelsea 6 - 0 FK Karabakh

Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge

This was a mismatch that probably proved very little in terms of Chelsea’s prospects in this year’s Champions League, but a stroll that felt hugely welcome in September’s cluttered and treacherous schedule. Antonio Conte had been braced to chop and change his lineup in the hope of negotiating a successful passage through seven games in 21 days. In the end, the head coach could offer breathers to those upon whom he leans most, safe in the knowledge this game had been won by the half-hour.

There will be few confrontations as gentle as this in the competition. Qarabag were debutants at this level and an Azerbaijan club who have endured 24 years in exile from their original home in Aghdam are still fiercely proud to be competing in the elite at all. But they were outclassed here from the outset. Atlético Madrid and Roma, goalless in Italy while Chelsea prospered, will provide far sterner tests in Group C, but those are concerns for another day. The Premier League champions had loathed life on the outside looking in on Europe last season, but could bask in the ease of a win on their return.

More significantly, with Alvaro Morata and David Luiz not required, and Pedro, César Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kanté withdrawn long before the end, they will still be fresh for Sunday’s visit of Arsenal.

“It was a good start, a perfect start, for us to play our first game back in the Champions League,” Conte said. “To score many goals, to finish the game with a clean sheet … I saw a lot of positive things. Now we have to continue, to rest tomorrow and then to start to think about the next game, a tough game against Arsenal.

“I wanted to give an opportunity to Michy [Batshuayi] and also to [Andreas] Christensen. If you play in the Champions League, it means the coach trusts you. My message tonight was this. I trust all my players, not only with words but with facts. It would be crazy to think we could play with only 13 players like last season, so we have to improve all these players to try and create a good competition, a positive competition, between them.”

No one let him down, with Batshuayi skimming home his goal from distance late on and, moments later, forcing Maksim Medvedev to convert into his own net from Davide Zappacosta’s low centre. Christensen, who has featured for Borussia Mönchengladbach at this level, was never flustered. Neither was this team.

Two of the home side’s number departed savouring their first Chelsea goals. Tiemoué Bakayoko’s was slammed home from close-range once Qarabag’s resistance had crumbled completely, fatigue gripping after the runaround they had endured. Michel and Badavi Huseynov had rather cramped each other’s style at Eden Hazard’s cross, the ball bouncing off the Spaniard into the France midfielder’s path. The finish was simple.

Zappacosta admitted good fortune had assisted his own reward on the half-hour. The Italian collected from Thibaut Courtois deep inside his own half, burst beyond two retreating opponents on the touchline and having glanced towards the centre to spy a team-mate, flung over a cross that ended up veering over the unsuspecting Ibrahim Sehic.

The goalkeeper had taken a step off his line in anticipation of collecting a cross, but the ball ended up flying over his dive and into the far corner. Zappacosta, a £23m arrival from Torino on transfer deadline day, celebrated with gusto in front of the Shed end, the home support rejoicing in a familiar chant in the absence of Diego Costa.

“I was really pleased with his performance,” Conte said. “He already knew very well my style and idea of football, so he was prepared to play. But it’s not easy to change your sporting life totally in one week. His answer was really good.”

Qarabag, with their sprinkling of Brazilian, Haitian, Spanish and South African attacking talent, had been overwhelmed from the outset, punctured by Pedro’s wonderfully curled finish five minutes in and defensively demoralised by the pace and invention of Chelsea’s attacks.

Willian, a figure revived after last term’s lull in form, tormented Wilde-Donald Guerrier, Cesc Fàbregas prompted from the centre, Kanté was his customary blur of energy, while both wing-backs sprinted into enemy territory with glee.

Even Azpilicueta scored a first goal in this competition, easing unchecked on to Fàbregas’s arced centre to nod beyond the exposed Sehic. “Chelsea are my favourites for the tournament,” the Azerbaijani coach, Gurban Gurbanov, said. It was impossible to judge that from this rout, but an upbeat tone has been set.

Trickier occasions than this lie ahead.



Chelsea return to the Champions League with a bang as they hit Qarabag for six

Chelsea 6 FK Qarabag 0: Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi all scored as Chelsea thrashed the champions of Azerbaijan

Miguel Delaney

Chelsea match their biggest ever win the Champions League to get on their way, but that was much because Qarabag must be one of the worst ever sides to visit Stamford Bridge in the competition. The gap was that big that this really was academic, and all about the numbers racked up. You could tell it was the Azerbaijani side’s first ever game in the competition proper, and it meant Antonio Conte could make five changes to his starting line-up and still see them rack up six goals to equal the number put past Maribor in 2014-15.

While routs like this are very difficult to read into, Davide Zappacosta enjoyed a particularly productive debut and a first goal for the club, with Tiemoue Bakayoko also getting his when he eventually got on the pitch for it to eventually finish 6-0.

This really was never in any doubt.

Conte’s decision to significantly change his team was almost immediately justified, as Chelsea so quickly went into the lead.

Even though Qarabag had actually started the game quite brightly and like they were going to bring the game to the English champions, their defence clearly couldn’t take too much pressure. They pretty much buckled the moment that Chelsea went forward.

Within three minutes, Ibrahim Sehic had to beat away a Marcos Alonso snapshot, after his backline just seemed to part in front of the goalkeeper. Within another minute more, it was 1-0, as Pedro enjoyed even more space in front of goal.

Standing unmarked at the edge of the box, the forward was free to pick his spot when Willian played the ball out to him from a short corner, and curled the ball just beyond the goalkeeper’s grasp for a supreme opener.

Chelsea were on their way and already in such control that Cesc Fabregas was trying sumptuous little flicks and backheels at 1-0.

You could have said that was a dangerous game to play until they at least had the second, but that wasn’t too long in coming, even if wasn’t quite from such an orchestrated move. There were doubts whether it was even intentional, not that Davide Zappacosta would have cared.

The new wing-back was making his first appearance for the club, and got a debut goal to add to it it, as his suspected cross from deep flew into the net on 30 minutes. Just before Zappacosta swung his leg, he did seem to be looking at - and aiming for - where Michy Batshuayi was standing, his eyes never actually on the goal, but if the delivery was wayward the run was anything but.

That was deserving of the goal itself, and should be hugely exciting for Chelsea. Zappacosta outstripped two Qarabag players on the right flank, one of his touches so exhilaratingly taking the move on and one of his markers out, before putting himself in the position to deliver.

The only frustration up to that point - at least judging by Conte’s reactions on the sideline - was that Batshuayi was putting himself into good positions but not really offering good touches, given the number of times he fumbled a move. Had he been as slick as he was on the night at West Brom last season when he scored the title-winning for Chelsea, this really could have been 5-0 by half-time.

It was all the more frustrating because Conte had seemed to rest Alvaro Morata to boost Batshuayi, and this should have been the sort of game where he added to his tally.

Chelsea did eventually add to their tally on 54 minutes, with even more creativity. Fabregas was of course central to the latter, and to the goal. Receiving the ball at the corner of the Qarabag area, he delightfully flicked forward a cross with the outside of his foot, allowing Cesar Azpilicueta to nod home for 3-0.

Moments later, to add a bit more misery to this wet evening for Qarabag, Eden Hazard was introduced for his second sub appearance since returning from injury.

Chelsea were just enjoying themselves. That Roma and Atletico Madrid drew in the other game will only have added to that, on a night that was all about just adding to the score.



Chelsea 6-0 Qarabag: Antonio Conte's men run riot to get Blues off to perfect start - 5 talking points

The win leaves Chelsea top of Group C with Atletico Madrid, their opponents on September 27, held at Roma

Chelsea announced their return to the Champions League with a ruthless display to crush Qarabag.

New boy Davide Zappacosta produced the pick of the Premier League champions’ six goals, capping a 70-yard sprint with a cross-shot which embarrassed keeper Ibrahim Semic on 30 minutes.

Pedro had earlier given Chelsea a fifth-minute lead with a fine strike from the edge of the box.

Cesar Azpilicueta headed in a third ten minutes after the break.

Tiemoue Bakayoko stroked home the fourth with 19 minutes left while Michy Batshuayi weighed in with late strikes on 76 and 82 minutes.

Antonio Conte had made five changes to the side victorious at Leicester last Saturday with Eden Hazard, Alvaro Morata, David Luiz, Victor Moses and Bakayoko dropped to the bench.

The win leaves Chelsea top of Group C with Atletico Madrid, their opponents on September 27, held at Roma.

1. Strength in depth

So what was all that about Chelsea’s squad looking a bit thin? No Hazard, no Bakayoko, no Rudiger and no Morata. Yet still the Premier League champions were able to win with authority on their return to the Champions League.

Willian even hit the bar.

The naysayers will pipe up that it was only Qarabag of Azerbaijan. Yet had Chelsea lost they’d have been been having a pop at the people tasked with bringing in the reinforcements to enable the club to compete on the European and domestic stage.

As it is, this was a display to increase competition for places and to even allow Hazard and Bakayoko to enjoy late run-outs. Arsenal with their shambolic defence might be in a bit of trouble if the Blues are this sharp on Sunday.

2. Conte proves his worth

In many ways the talented Italian is a victim of his own success. Guardiola and Mourinho get top players to gel. Conte actually improves players.

He coaches them into fulfilling their potential. Last season he defied the doubters to turn a Chelsea team seemingly at the end of it’s shelf-life into title challengers.

Look at what he has done with the likes of Alonso, Moses and Luiz, all players about whom fans and pundits initially had grave reservations.

At centre-half today young Andreas Christensen also looked to have benefited from the Conte coaching masterclasses. His was a composed, intelligent performance - in stark contrast to his uncertain return from a loan spell in Germany during pre-season.

3. Batshuayi toils... but gets his reward

A tough night for a striker whose flurry of goals at the end of last season did little to impress either his critics or, more importantly, Antonio Conte of his quality.

The Italian turned away in frustration in the 19th minute when Batshuayi reacted far too slowly after Willian’s shot had been parried by Qarabag keeper Ibrahim Semic.

The Belgian’s touch was largely ponderous and lacking in confidence. Perhaps he was trying too hard. He earned a boost late on when his pressure resulted in the visitors losing their composure to allow him to fire home the fifth and sixth.

4. Alonso impressive

Ever since Chelsea’s ultimately ill-fated pursuit of Alex Sandro, Marcos Alonso appears to have stepped up another gear.

Solid defensively with that fearsome left-foot, he has been even more of an asset to the Champions than he was last season.

Early in this contest he twice looked as though he would add to the two goals he scored against Spurs last month, Qarabag keeper Ibrahim Semic saved the first, skipper Rashad Sadygov blocked the second.

In a dominant display to justify their favouritism for this contest, Alonso was among Chelsea’s best players.

5. Fabregas shows his class

Last season Conte was prepared to listen to offers for him. Fabregas didn’t want to go. On his performances since it is a good job that Chelsea have held on to him.

Granted, the 30-year-old, assist-maker supreme isn’t quite the force he was in his heyday. But he has never lost his ability to pick a pass or to pull defences apart.

Here he shone like a diamond against a Qarabag side that will soon be in the Europa League - if they are lucky.

Fabregas was involved in the first goal and picked out Cesar Azpilicueta to head the third with a peach of a ball into the box.

There is life in the old dog yet.



Chelsea 6 Qarabag 0: Davide Zappacosta strike lights up the bridge as Blues cruise to win

CHELSEA’S return to the Champions League saw Stamford Bridge treated to a stunning goal from Davide Zappacosta.

By David Woods

How the Italian scored from 30 yards out on the right touchline only he really knows, but it was a strike to remember, however he did it.

There seemed no danger in the 30th minute as he burst down with purpose and zest, but when the £23m signing from Torino connected with the ball it flew across goal-wards.

It may have been meant as a cross, but the sheer power and late dip on the ball saw it whizz over keeper Ibrahim Sehic and flash into the net.

Boss Antonio Conte was thrilled on the touchline and so was his fellow Italian after his first goal for the Blues.

In their debut game in the Champions League group stage, Azerbaijan side Qarabag were never going to have things easy at the home of the champions of England.

And with Arsenal the visitors to Stamford Bridge in the league on Sunday, their limited threat seemed like providing a gentle reintroduction to Europe’s top club competition for Chelsea.

Marcos Alonso was on target in the fourth minute with a shot Sahic beat away.

A minute later the west Londoners went ahead. Following a short corner from Cesc Fabregas, Willian strode in from the right and, unmarked, smacked a curler from the just on the ‘D’ which Sehic could only claw into the net.

Pedro’s last appearance in the Champions League was in the 2015 final when he came on in the 89th minute of Barcelona’s 3-1 victory over Juventus in Berlin, picking up his third Champions League medal following successes in 2009 and 2011.

Willian had a goal-bound effort tipped away by Sahic and when Michy Batshauyi missed the target with the follow-up Conte did not look best pleased.

Pedro Henrique was on target in the 37th minute for Qarabag after cutting onto his left foot, but Thibaut Courtois was able to gather easily.

Home fans amused themselves, by shouting “shoot!” every time Italy international Zappacosta received the ball out wide following his goal.

With record signing Alvaro Morata on the bench this clash provided a chance for Batshuayi to show his strengths, but the Belgium struggled to make an impact in the centre of Chelsea’s attack.

On a chilly night, Conte wore a coat and a blue baseball cap, but, typically, with his men 2-0 and looked in complete control, he still did not look relaxed.

He did seem a bit more chilled, though, in the 55th when Cesar Azpilicueta scored his first ever Champions League goal.

It was an all-Spanish affair, with Fabregas picking out his run with a super ball using the outside of his right boot and the defender glanced home powerfully and ran to celebrate with countryman Morata, who was warming up on the touchline.

In the 58th minute there was a big cheer when Eden Hazard continued his comeback by coming on for Pedro, having returned to action for the Blues, after an ankle problem, for 12 minutes of the 2-1 win at Leicester on Saturday.

Zappacosta had a great chance to claim his second in the 64th minute but this time screwed his shot, a half-volley, well wide. On a party night at the Bridge, no-one was too bothered.

Willian, who was buzzing all match, was unlucky soon after smashing a shot against the bar. Substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko was more fortunate, slotting in after a terrible mix-up in the Qarabag defence in the 72nd minute.

CHELSEA (3-4-3): Coutois; Azpilicueta (Rudiger 75), Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante (Bakayoko 63), Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Bathsuayi, Pedro (Hazard 58). Subs: Caballero, Morata, Moses, Luiz.

QARABAG (4-1-4-1): Sehic; Medvedev, Huseynv, Sadygov (Madatov 70), Rzezniczak; Garayev (Diniyev 70); Henrique (Elyounoussi 77), Michel, Almeida, Guerrier; Ndlovu. Subs: Kanibolotskiy, Amirguiliyev, Ismayilov, Yunuszada,

REFEREE: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece).



Chelsea 6 - Qarabag 0: Antonio Conte's side thrash Group C minnows

ANTONIO CONTE has spent the summer insisting Chelsea are not yet ready to win the Champions League.


He was just as pessimistic in the build-up to the new campaign this week. Maybe this result will cheer the Italian up a bit.

Chelsea had to win this opener against the Group C whipping boys, and they duly did, as Pedro, Davide Zappacosta, Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi all netted on a night when Conte’s team could have had a hatful.

It was Qarabag’s first venture into the Champions League – indeed Azerbaijan’s first venture into the competition as a country.

The club from the war-torn western region of the state have seen their home base Aghdam turned into a virtual ghost town by the conflict with neighbouring Armenia. They actually play their ‘home’ games 440km away in the capital Baku, their own Imarat Stadium now reduced to rubble by the bombing and shelling.

Their fans know them as the ‘Barcelona of the Caucasus’, and a win over Copenhagen in the last qualifying round marked Gurban Gurbanov’s side down as one not to be totally underestimated. But still, it was a game that simply had to be won by Conte’s team.

Chelsea’s last outing in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge had seen them lose 2-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 in March 2016 – when David Luiz, now normally at the heart of their defence but last night on the bench, had a storming game to shut them out. It seems a long time ago now.

Some 366 souls made their way from Azerbaijan to London, watching their team face a strong Chelsea side. Predictably, it did not turn out to be a successful trip.

Marcos Alonso forced a save from Ibrahim Sehic early on, then the goalkeeper had to dive at Batshuayi’s feet to keep him out, but it did not take long for Chelsea to break through.

Willian fed Pedro on the edge of the area and the Spaniard crashed his drive past Sehic.

Batshuayi then hit the sidenetting when he should have scored and Sehic made a great save from debutant Zappacosta’s header, as Chelsea penned their opponents in. But the new £23million full-back had his moment on the half-hour. Bursting down the right, Zappacosta raced past two men and then cracked a glorious drive over Sehic from 35 yards.

It was almost certainly meant to be a cross that the goalkeeper horribly misjudged but Chelsea will not worry about that. Zappacosta was off the mark and straight away an instant hero with the Stamford Bridge fans.

Chelsea were attacking at will, with Willian running the show against a Qarabag defence clearly struggling to cope with the Premier League side’s pace and movement.

There was no holding back Zappacosta, as he burst down the right again and drilled a shot just wide of the far post. Chelsea had been in total control right from the off – and showed no signs of letting up against the Group C minnows.

Qarabag’s few attacks produced the odd long-range shot that Thibaut Courtois, a spectator for most of the proceedings, dealt with comfortably. A third had to arrive, though, and the inevitable happened when Cesc Fabregas chipped the ball in and Azpilicueta

stooped to nod home only his sixth Chelsea goal from six yards out.

Zappacosta tried his luck again from the edge of the area but his effort flew high and wide, after another piece of Willian trickery had once again opened up the Qarabag defence.

Another new boy, substitute Bakayoko, grabbed the fourth goal when his shot deflected in off Michel. And at last Batshuayi found his range, as he fired home the fifth, before Maksim Medvedev scored an own-goal in the closing minutes.

With much tougher tests to come in this group, it was a win that was necessary. It even, almost, had Conte smiling at times.

CHELSEA (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante (Bakayoko 62), Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Batshuayi, Pedro (Hazard 58). Booked: Cahill.

Goals: Pedro 5, Zappacosta 30, Azpilicueta 55, Bakayoko 71, Batshuayi 76,Medvedev 82 og.

QARABAG (4-1-4-1): Sehic; Medvedev, Huseynov, Sadygov, Rzezniczak; Garayev; Henrique, Michel, Almeida, Guerrier; Ndlovu.

Referee: T Sidiropoulos (Greece).



SIX OF THE BEST Chelsea 6 Qarabag 0: Davide Zappacosta scores stunner on full debut as Blues run riot to kick-start their Champions League campaign

Pedro, Cesar Azpilicueta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Michy Batshuayi ensure Blues are off to winning ways

By Justin Allen & Richard Forrester

DAVIDE ZAPPACOSTA scored on his Chelsea debut – while Tiemoue Bakayoko came off the bench to open his account in an easy win at Stamford Bridge against Azerbaijan minnows Qarabag.

It was the first game back in the Champions League for the Blues after a season out of Europe and they were barely tested by the woeful visitors.

Pedro curled in a sensational opener for Chelsea as the Blues scored six for the first time under Antonio Conte

Marcos Alonso twice had chances to put Chelsea in front early on – first he had an effort parried away by keeper Ibrahum Sehic and then had a drive blocked by a defender.

But there was no denying the Blues when Willian teed up Pedro and the Spaniard fired home from the edge of the box.

Gary Cahill – back in the Chelsea line-up after his red card at Burnley last month 0 only took 14 minutes to get into the referee’s bad books again … this time booked for a poor challenge on Pedro Henrique.

Qarabag keeper Sehic then pulled off a good save from Willian’s low driven effort and Michy Batshuyi did not quite get to the loose ball in time to slot home.

Cesc Fabregas almost created a second when he dinked a delightful ball over the top of the defence and Davide Zappacosta headed against the bar. The linesman had his flag up for offside but it was only by an inch.

Then came a moment of pure fluke.

Zappacosta raced down the right flank, bypassing two Qarabag players, before smashing the ball past Sehic from 30 yards.

To the untrained eye, it looked a brilliant strike – but watching it back on TV replays he clearly went to cross and mis-hit it, sending the ball flying into the net.

Chelsea wrapped it up when Fabregas layed a lovely chip over the visitors’ defence for Cesar Azpilicueta to head home.

Eden Hazard entered the fray in the 57th minute as he continues his comeback from injury.

Eden Hazard managed to get some minutes under his belt on his return to full fitness

Willian then rattled the crossbar after the Qarabag defence dropped off and invited him to shoot.

Bakayoko added a fourth in the 71st minute after the woeful when Bakayoko punished Qarabag for failing to clear a Hazard cross

And Michy Batshuayi grabbed No5 five minutes later, having all the time in the world to fire home from 16 yards.

Moments later it was six of the best when Batshuayi's strike was bundled into the net by the Qarabag defender.