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Clinical Chelsea crush meek Maribor


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Eden Hazard played a starring role as Chelsea mauled Maribor to record their biggest-ever Champions League victory.

The Belgian netted twice in an emphatic win that was somewhat overshadowed by an early injury to Loic Remy, who netted the opening goal before departing prematurely due to an apparent groin injury.

With Schalke winning 4-3 against Sporting Lisbon thanks to a last-minute Eric Choupo-Moting penalty in Roberto di Matteo's first game in charge, after a draw in their last home game against the German outfit the onus was firmly on Chelsea to lay down a marker with a victory against their Slovenian opponents.

Through an enterprising performance they duly delivered, with Hazard, Willian and full-back Filipe Luis at the heart of a hugely impressive victory over the side that dominated Celtic in the third qualifying round.

With Andre Schurrle and nine-goal Diego Costa on the treatment table, the role of leading the line was handed to Remy, who, after opening the scoring with a precise finish from the edge of the area, limped off to add to José Mourinho's forward woes.

But just eight minutes after the Frenchman departed, another of Mourinho's strikers was reacquainting himself with the familiar feeling of netting on a Chelsea European night as Didier Drogba slotted home his 158th Blues goal.

Drogba's last touch of a ball in his first spell as a Chelsea player was the match-winning penalty against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final of May 2012 - and his strike here was an exact replica of that moment as the ball nestled in the same spot as in Bayern's own back yard.

That penalty, awarded somewhat harshly for an accidental handball, came just moments after Agim Ibraimi saw a well hit snap-shot turned aside by Petr Cech, who was making his first appearance in the competition since suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in April's 0-0 draw at Atletico Madrid.

It was 3-0 with half-an-hour played as the Blues broke following a Maribor corner. Drogba cleared the ball upfield from the edge of the six yard box, where Hazard was able to control the ball and slip in Cesc Fabregas, who in turn fed the ball in to the feet of John Terry, who poked home into an unguarded net.

There was chances either side of half-time for the Blues to extend their lead; the first of which fell to Branislav Ivanovic who ought to have done better than lash over when well placed, and Kurt Zouma was later denied after the restart as his header was saved by Handanovic.

Cech then fielded a deflected Marcos Tavares volley, before Hazard, who should have finished off a glorious move just moments before, crossed the ball in for the hapless Mitja Viler to back-heel into his own goal to supply a fourth for Chelsea.

Maribor were then rightly awarded a penalty when Nemanja Matic clumsily threw Tavares to the flew, but Ibraimi's effort cannoned out off the base of the post - though Cech may well have saved the shot had it been on target.

Oscar then curled a sumptuous effort inches wide whilst the majestic WIllian went closer still to adding a fifth for the Blues as his ferocious drive thundered back off the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten.

But the capacity crowd at Stamford Bridge only had to wait a little longer as Hazard converted the third penalty of the night, and the brilliant Belgian made it 6-0 in stoppage time as he beautifully took down substitute Nathan Ake's raking pass, jinked inside and then outside a defender, before lashing into the top corner for his fourth goal of the season already.

He might have made it a hat-trick in the game's very last play as he beat umpteen defenders, only to skew an effort straight down the line of the goalkeeper - but the final whistle was nonetheless sounded as Chelsea recorded their biggest Champions League victory, surpassing 2012's 6-1 beating of FC Nordsjaelland.

Despite the injury to Remy, there were positives galore for Blues boss Mourinho, who saw Drogba look something close to his best once more. Though Maribor hardly represent the most taxing of opposition, the Ivorian looked fighting fit and was well worth his goal from the penalty spot and should both Costa and Remy both be ruled out of Sunday's trip to Old Trafford, Drogba may well prove himself a handful of his own accord.

Equally as promising were both young substitutes Ake and Dominic Solanke, the latter making his Chelsea début aged just 17, whilst Zouma was imperious at the back on his European bow. Playing next to John Terry, we may well have witnessed both the present and the future of Chelsea's central defence this evening - Zouma looks worth every penny of the hefty £12 million paid to St Etienne for his services back in January.

Attentions are now turned back towards the Premier League and that weekend visit to Old Trafford - a tricky fixture in even the best of times, United will prove tough opponents with the Blues' growing repertoire of injury concerns.

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