Chelsea became the third English side to qualify for the Champions League last 16 after a dominant victory in Baku against FK Qarabag.
The hosts had held Atletico Madrid to two draws in the last two match days and started well when a neat one-two deflected through to the lively Michel, however the midfielder’s shot cannoned off the post in what proved to be Qarabag’s only real chance of the evening.
The Premier League champions then took firm control after they were awarded a penalty 20 minutes in, Willian going to ground after having his shirt tugged by home captain Rashad Sadygov and the Qarabag skipper was given a straight red card.
Eden Hazard typically slotted home the penalty to swing the game Chelsea’s way, and the one man advantage quickly showed as some excellent football from the Blues front three, Pedro, Willian and Hazard saw the latter superbly find Willian in the box with a neat back heel and the Brazilian confidently tucked home number two.
After the break, the tempo of the game was much slower as the 10 men of Qarabag created very little and Antonio Conte’s Chelsea had the best chances to increase their tally, though home keeper Anton Kanibolotskiy made excellent saves from Pedro and Eden Hazard.
Club record signing Alvaro Morata came on with 25 minutes left and thought he had made it 3-0 when he finished off a nice team move, however the offside flag denied him the honour. It was barely three minutes later after Willian again had his shirt pulled in the box and again the referee pointed to the spot.
Cesc Fabregas stepped up and slotted the spot kick home with great assurance, doing so on two attempts after it had to be retaken due to encroachment. The outstanding Willian proceeded to add his second with five minutes left after his run at the home defence allowed him to smash a 20 yard shot home and give the scoreline a more fitting look.
Whether Chelsea will go through as Group C winners is still to be decided, as Roma will return to the top with three points at Atletico Madrid whilst the Spaniards could themselves qualify at Roma’s expense if results go their way in the next two weeks. Chelsea host Diego Simeone’s side on the final match day.