Zappacosta solo goal, Chelsea routs Qarabag 6-0 in Champions League opener

Davide Zappacosta of Chelsea scores in the UEFA Champions League match against Qarabag FK at Stamford Bridge.
CLIVE ROSE

Davide Zappacosta of Chelsea scores in the UEFA Champions League match against Qarabag FK at Stamford Bridge.

Who needs Diego Costa when you have Davide Zappacosta?

On his full Chelsea debut, the wing back announced himself to Stamford Bridge in spectacular fashion with an audacious solo goal eclipsing anything exiled striker Costa has produced in west London.

It was some way, too, for 2012 champion Chelsea to announce its return to the Champions League after failing to qualify last season. Zappacosta's 30th-minute goal was only the second in a 6-0 rout of Azerbaijani tournament newcomer Qarabag in their opening game in Group C.

Eder Balanta of FC Basel and Romelu Lukaku (right) of Manchester United battle for possession at Old Trafford.
LAURENCE GRIFFITHS

Eder Balanta of FC Basel and Romelu Lukaku (right) of Manchester United battle for possession at Old Trafford.

The deadline-day signing from Torino started the run outside his own penalty area and surged down the field past two defenders before reaching the edge of the Qarabag penalty area where he caught goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic off-guard with his strike.

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Asked later if Chelsea had a new hero called Costa, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte replied in a flash: "Zappacosta.''

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring against Juventus at Camp Nou.
ALEX CAPARROS

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring against Juventus at Camp Nou.

Conte has been trying to avoid questions for months about Diego Costa, who is out of London as he agitates for a move to Atletico Madrid.

The feeble Azerbaijan champions first conceded after five minutes when Pedro Rodriguez bent the ball past Sehic.

Cesar Azpilicueta demonstrated his attacking threat when he headed in the third 10 minutes into the second half after being left unmarked to meet Cesc Fabregas' cross. Just like Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko marked his Champions League debut for Chelsea with a goal in the 71st minute after coming off the bench.

The game provided all the goals in Group C as Roma and Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 in the Italian capital.

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In other games, Romelu Lukaku kept scoring in his first season at Manchester United.

The Belgium striker headed in the second goal in a 3-0 win over Basel on the opening night of the Champions League, to make it six goals in six games for United, across three competitions.

He scored in the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid on his competitive debut, two goals on his first start in the Premier League, and now on his first appearance in the Champions League group stage.

The negative for manager Jose Mourinho on a rainy night at Old Trafford, when Marouane Fellaini and Marcus Rashford also scored against an overwhelmed Swiss champion, was Paul Pogba hobbling off with an apparent left hamstring injury in the 19th minute.

Midfielder Pogba left Old Trafford on crutches.  Fellaini, on as a substitute for Pogba, opened the scoring with a close-range header in the 35th before Lukaku climbed between two defenders to nod home Daley Blind's left-wing cross in the 53rd.

Rashford completed the win in the 84th minute, soon after coming on a substitute.

​In Barcelona, a mesmeric Lionel Messi scored twice and inspired Barcelona to a 3-0 win over Juventus as the Catalans got off to a flying start in Champions League Group D, avenging last season's quarter-final elimination by the Italian champions.

Messi broke the deadlock on the stroke of halftime by playing a slick one-two off Luis Suarez and arrowing the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon, finally getting the better of the veteran Italian in his fourth game against him.

For his second and Barca's third he received a pass from Andres Iniesta and ripped more holes in a depleted Juventus defence before lashing beyond a dejected Buffon, scoring his seventh goal in three games.

Juventus, who were missing five key players including defensive warrior Giorgio Chiellini, looked a shadow of the team that beat Barca 3-0 on aggregate last season and reached the Champions League final.

Fellow Spaniards Atletico Madrid were held to a scoreless draw by Roma in their Group C opener.

French giants Paris St Germain put five past a poor Celtic side in Glasgow.

A first half incident saw a fan invade the pitch and try to kick PSG striker Kylian Mbappe after the visitors made it 3-0.

​CSKA Moscow beat Benfica 2-1 in Group A action and Portuguese club Sporting CP beat Greek champs Olympiacos in Group D.

 

 - AP

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