Davide Zappacosta seizes his chance as Chelsea rout minnows Qarabag
It wasn't just raining water at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night -- it was raining goals as well as Chelsea thrashed Qarabag 6-0 to lay down a serious marker in Champions League Group C. Pedro opened the scoring after five minutes, Davide Zappacosta -- making his first start for the London club -- doubled the Blues' lead on the half-hour mark with a spectacular strike, Cesar Azpilicueta made it three with a header on 55 minutes and substitute Tiemoue Bakayoko added a fourth before Michy Batshuayi completed the rout with a late brace.
If qualification from Group C is determined by goal difference, Chelsea will have enhanced their chances significantly with this result. In Zappacosta, manager Antonio Conte looks to have signed a player who could have a similar impact on the right flank that Marcos Alonso has had on the left.
There were no faults to find with this 6-0 victory.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Conte rang in the changes and has every reason to be pleased not only with the result but the performances of the players he brought into the side -- in particular, Andreas Christensen and Zappacosta. This was a slick and clinical team performance from Chelsea, who look once again to be the supremely well-drilled unit that excelled last season.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- A quiet night for Courtois, who had little involvement in the game from a shot-stopping perspective. An unexpected assist for Zappacosta's goal was the highlight of the evening for the Belgium international.
DF Gary Cahill, 6 -- A sending off and three-match suspension clearly haven't dimmed Cahill's appetite for a rash challenge. In an otherwise composed performance, an early yellow card for a needless foul on Pedro Henrique was a swift reminder to Conte perhaps that his skipper has a liability streak that needs monitoring.
DF Andreas Christensen, 8 -- The opposition may have been feeble and relatively toothless, but they still needed to be patrolled and Christensen did this with aplomb. The 21-year-old oozed class and read the game with a maturity that belies his age.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- If everything in life was as reliable as Azpilicueta, the world would be a much easier place for everyone. Game after game, the versatile Chelsea defender never disappoints and this time around his sterling endeavours were rewarded with a goal.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 9 -- Making his full home debut for Chelsea, Zappacosta seized the opportunity afforded him by Conte, who opted to rest Victor Moses. A menace on the right flank, the Italy international fired home a memorable goal from a tight angle. Whether it was meant to be a cross or not is immaterial -- it was spectacular. A new cult hero in the making, Zappacosta, who also provided an assist for Batshuayi's second goal late, could well displace Moses on a permanent basis.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- An untroubled hour for Kante, who bossed midfield before making way for Bakayoko.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 -- Was given the freedom of Stamford Bridge by Qarabag to play give-and-go football with his teammates. Floated a lovely free kick for Azpilicueta to head Chelsea three up after the break.
MF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- With more freedom than usual, Alonso was soon into his buccaneering groove and might have scored in the opening moments of the game but his shot was turned around the post by Qarabag keeper Ibrahim Sehic. Untroubled from a defensive perspective.
FW Pedro, 8 -- Swiftly remedied Saturday's lacklustre performance against Leicester City by opening the scoring early for Chelsea. A lovely right-foot shot from the edge of the box rippled the top corner of the Qarabag net and set the Blues on their way to a comfortable victory.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 8 -- Two confidence-boosting late goals for the 23-year-old striker merit an 8 rating, but they masked what was a pretty dour performance for much of the game. Batshuayi will remain on the periphery of Conte's first-team plans, but both player and manager will take comfort from the positive conclusion.
FW Willian, 8 -- A silky performance from the Brazil international, who caused the visitors problems every time he ran at their defence. In truth, the 29-year-old deserved at least one goal but he was denied by the woodwork and some robust challenges. Substitutes FW Eden Hazard, 7 -- Replaced Pedro in the 58th minute and gave Chelsea an added dimension. Looked to be back to full fitness playing in tricky conditions and a place in Conte's next starting XI surely awaits.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 8 -- Replaced Kante in the 63rd minute and soon muscled in on the goal-scoring action, turning the ball in from close range to make it 4-0. Bakayoko wasn't done yet in an advanced role, turning provider for Batshuayi to make it 5-0. A nice easy half-hour workout for the 23-year-old.
DF Antonio Rudiger, NR -- Replaced Azpilicueta in the 75th minute and slotted seamlessly into Chelsea's back line for the closing phase of the game.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco