Image: uefa.com

Chelsea advanced to the knockout stage of the Champions League with a game to spare after beating 10-man Qarabag 4 – 0 on Wednesday, securing manager Antonio Conte’s 50th victory in all competitions with the Blues.

Following a humbling 3 – 0 loss in Rome, Willian led Chelsea’s efforts to get its European campaign back on track, scoring a goal in each half and winning two penalties.

Eden Hazard made it 1 – 0 from the penalty spot in the 21st minute, calmly sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Home team captain Rashad F. Sadygov had received a straight red card for tugging back Willian just inside the area as the Chelsea forward ran onto Eden Hazard’s pass.

Hazard then fed Willian with a back-heel pass to make it 2 – 0 in the 37th.

Qarabag, the first club from Azerbaijan to reach the group stage of the Champions League, had no better luck in the second half. Cesc Fabregas scored from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute and Willian added his second goal, a drive from 20 metres, five minutes from time.

Barcelona, meanwhile, needed only a point to reach the Round of 16 and the Spanish superpower got exactly that against Juventus. A 0 – 0 draw at the home of last year’s runner-up. The stalemate was enough to ensure top spot in Group D for the La Liga leader.

Juventus will have to wait until the final round to try and qualify for the knockout stages. The Italian side remained second in the group but is only a point above Sporting Lisbon, which beat Olympiakos 3-1.

The Italian side – which reached the final in two of the past three seasons – next visits Olympiakos, while Sporting travels to Barcelona.

Barcelona, which rested Lionel Messi until the 56th minute, went closest to breaking the deadlock when Ivan Rakitic hit the post with a free kick.

Already through, Paris Saint-Germain conceded the first goal of its European campaign in the first minute – before unleashing its unstoppable firepower to thrash Celtic 7 – 1 in Paris.

Neymar scored twice and set up another goal as Paris Saint-Germain produced its biggest Champions League win to extend its perfect record in the group stage this season.

PSG leads Group B with 15 points, three more than Bayern Munich, which won 2-1 at Anderlecht. Both PSG and Bayern are guaranteed a spot in the knockout phase and will battle for group supremacy on Dec. 5.

Celtic forward Moussa Dembele surprised the hosts with his opening-minute goal, but PSG responded with four goals in the first half – two from Neymar, one from Edinson Cavani and the other from Kylian Mbappe.

The one-way traffic continued after the break with Cavani scoring again to take his career total with PSG to 151, while Marco Verratti and Dani Alves also found the net.

A goalless draw at Basel would have been enough for Manchester United to top Group A, but the Premier League club slipped to its first group stage loss, going down 1 – 0 on a goal conceded just a minute from time.

United was deservedly beaten 1 – 0 by a spirited Basel, leaving all the qualification places open with one game remaining. Basel defender Michael Lang struck in the 89th minute to earn a win for the Swiss champion.

Still, United leads the standings with 12 points, three clear of both Basel and CSKA Moscow, which earlier won 2 – 0 at home to last-place Benfica.

Author: Yemi Olarinre