Chelsea have reached the last 16 of the Champions League with a comfortable victory against 10-man Qarabag.
Two goals from Willian, as well as spot-kicks from Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas, confirmed the Blues will finish in the top two of Group C with a game to spare.
Willian has been poor this season and he was starting to become a target of his side’s fan base after managing just one goal and two assists in his 17 previous appearances in all competitions.
He had scored just one goal prior to this game this season – against Everton in the League Cup – but played a pivotal role in this win for the Blues, also winning two penalties.
After former Birmingham City midfielder Michel hit the bar for Qarabag, Chelsea were awarded their first spot kick when Rashad Sadygov was adjudged to have pulled down Willian inside the area. Sadygov was subsequently sent off and Hazard sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot.
The visitors quickly added a second following a stunning passage of play which ended with Hazard backheeling the ball for Willian to side-foot home.
Chelsea beat Qarabag 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in the first Group C game between the two sides back in September and a repeat of such a scoreline looked likely with Antonio Conte’s side capable of scoring with every attack.
Another foul on Willian midway through the second half allowed Fabregas to add a third from the spot before Willian’s thunderous drive late on ensured Chelsea’s place into the knockout round with a game to spare.
Chelsea, the last English team to win the Champions League when they triumphed in 2012, move top of their group with 10 points from five games, although Roma can reclaim top spot if they beat Atletico Madrid later on Wednesday.
After a summer of uncertainty in which he seemed open to the idea of being reunited with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, Willian appeared to have lost his way.
However, he made a timely return to centre stage in Baku. Indeed, Willian was involved in all four goals as Chelsea swept 10-man Qarabag aside.
Antonio Conte described the game as the most important game of the season so far but the ease of the win allowed the Italian to promptly turn his attention to the weekend trip to Anfield, which was a most welcome bonus, given Liverpool had already been given the benefit an additional 24 hours to prepare for the match on Merseyside.
Chelsea had Willian to thank for making light work of potentially arduous assignment. He combined brilliantly with Eden Hazard to end the game as a meaningful after 21 minutes.