Antonio Conte was satisfied the changes he made to his starting XI tonight paid off and provided further evidence of the depth of his squad.
A red card and penalty before the midway point of the first half tipped the game in our favour, and from the moment Eden Hazard converted the spot-kick, we never looked back against Qarabag.
Hazard teed up one of those brought into the side, Willian, for another before half-time, and the Brazilian was in the thick of the action after the break, too. He was fouled inside the box for a second time, allowing Cesc Fabregas to score from 12 yards, and then he wrapped up the victory with the best individual goal of the game, a trademark long-ranger that found the top corner.
The result ensures our involvement in this competition will continue beyond Christmas and that is one of the reasons why Conte was a happy man afterwards…
‘Tonight was very positive,’ he said. ‘I knew very well this type of game would not be easy. Don’t forget Atletico are in trouble because they drew twice against Qarabag.
‘We must be pleased that we reached our first target: going through to the next round of the Champions League, and avoiding the Atletico game being decisive for us. It’s a good chance to do more rotation with my players. Tonight I did many rotations and to see every single player answer very well is great for me.’
Willian was the star of the show
‘I like to speak about the team, not about a single player. I have to count on all my squad. For Willian to score two goals is great for him, his confidence and for the team. We have to continue in this way.’
The Brazilian was fouled for both penalties, including the first which also reduced the home side to 10 men
‘For me it’s very difficult to speak about this situation because when you are on the bench, far away, it’s difficult to tell if it’s a penalty or not.
‘But the referee has to do his job, not favour one team or another team. I think the referee tried to do his job.’
Conte enjoyed the noise the home crowd made and he also praised the 900-strong travelling Chelsea support
‘For me and above all for the players it’s great to play in this atmosphere. You could feel great enthusiasm and passion for football. It’s important for Qarabag and Azerbaijan because this country is growing a lot. It’s right to say thanks to the people who were here and created this atmosphere.
‘It’s also right to thank our fans because they had a long travel to follow their team. It means they have a big heart and they deserve great satisfaction.’
Next up is a trip to Anfield and Conte spoke about Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Sevilla last night, as well as preparations for Saturday’s big fixture
‘I watched the game. Liverpool played a really good first half with great intensity. But as you know very well, football is strange. What happened in the second half is very difficult to explain. Liverpool in the second half had opportunities to score other goals. They were also unlucky.
‘It’s important to prepare for the game and for us to try and play a really good game. We know very well what are the qualities of Liverpool.
‘We have to work during the flight to prepare for the game, but to be honest we started [preparing] with my staff before tonight so as not to wait until at the last moment.’