Azerbaijan’s Qarabag football (soccer) team suffered a 6-0 defeat by the English team Chelsea, in its first match in the group stage of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, played at Stamford Bridge in London on Tuesday.
Qarabag is the first-ever Azerbaijani team to advance to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League. Qarabag, originally from Aghdam in Nagorno Karabakh but now based in Baku, began its games in Group C, which has been nicknamed the “group of death” as it consists of European giants such as the reigning Premier League champions, Chelsea; Atlético Madrid from Spain; and Italy’s A.S. Roma.
Besides having the home-court advantage, the British team scored an early goal, giving them an additional, psychological gain: In the fifth minute of the game, Pedro Rodríguez scored the first goal, outside the penalty box.
Chelsea hit the goal net during the 30th, 55th, 71th and 76th minutes, while the latest was an own goal from Azerbaijani defender Maksim Medvedev in 82' minute.
Ahead of matches with Atletico Madrid and Roma, the 6-0 score has boosted Chelsea’s confidence. Its Italian coach, Antonio Conte, was aware that every goal and point taken from Qarabag would be very important for the team’s mindset at this stage of the Champions League competition.
“We played against the team that is a possible candidate to be the winner of the Champions League. Chelsea’s power is known to everyone” Qarabag’s head coach Gurban Gurbanov told reporters proudly after the match, adding, “We will continue to improve our abilities learning lessons from our mistakes.”
For Azerbaijanis, Qarabag is more than a football team: It is a source of national pride, outside the context of sports.
The team’s home city, Aghdam, located near Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh region that has been occupied by Armenia since the early 1990’s, was decimated by the Armenian military during a war fought from 1988 until 1994. Aghdam had been captured by Armenian forces in July 1993, when over 40,000 people fled due to shelling.
Qarabag relocated to the country's capital after its home stadium, Imarat, was destroyed by Armenia. It now plays its home games at Tofig Bahramov stadium in Baku.
Qarabag’s next match within the framework of the group stage of the Champions League will be held at Baku’s Olympic Stadium, which can seat nearly 70,000 spectators. There they will play against Italy’s Roma at 20:00 local time on September 27. Over 30,000 tickets have already been sold as of September 12, according to Azartac news agency.