Chelsea climbed to third place on the Premier League table after an emphatic 8-0 victory over Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Playing their first league match in over two weeks, the trip to Japan for the FIFA Club World Cup, although ultimately unsuccessful in terms of bringing home the trophy, seems to have done much for Rafael Benitez’s integration as manager and the whole atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge.
With Villa coming into the match following an impressive victory at Liverpool, there was much for Chelsea to be apprehensive about, despite their own emphatic win in midweek over Leeds. But from as early as the third minute when Fernando Torres headed home, the home side was in complete control. Further goals followed before the break from David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic before Frank Lampard, Oscar, Eden Hazard and two goals from Ramires made the score line even more emphatic as Villa struggled to provide any meaningful resistance.
There will be much tougher challenges ahead, and they still lie 11 points behind the Premier League leaders Manchester United, but the performance will give Chelsea fans confidence for what lies ahead this season.
The home fans were on their feet early as Cesar Azpilicueta gave Torres the kind of early service he craves with a cross from deep that the striker met with a powerful near-post header that soared into the top corner of the net.
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The second goal was no less spectacular when it arrived just before the half-hour mark. Luiz stepped up to the free-kick and struck the ball with his trademark technique that sent the ball dipping with power beyond Brad Guzan’s desperate attempts to get across goal.
Five minutes later it was 3-0. A right wing corner fell to Gary Cahill who did well to control and hit a shot on the turn that Guzan repelled but Ivanovic was on hand to power a header into the net.
In truth the result could have been even more one-sided had it not been from some good stops by Villa keeper Guzan.
After saving impressively from Juan Mata and Victor Moses, there was nothing he could do to prevent Lampard from making it 4-0 just before the hour mark. Mata chipped the ball up to the veteran midfielder 25 yards from goal and he chested down before sending the ball arrowing into the bottom corner.
Oscar missed a good chance to make it 5-0 just minutes after coming on as substitute as he struck wide across goal. But moments later Chelsea’s other two substitutes would combine to success for the first of four goals in the final 15 minutes.
Lucas Piazon, making his Premier League debut, broke through midfield and found Ramires with a precise through ball that his fellow Brazilian struck low first time through the legs of Guzan.
By that stage Villa were surely desperate to just get back into the dressing room, but there was more punishment to come. Defender Chris Herd, perhaps shell-shocked by what was going on around him, made a clumsy challenge from behind to bring down Oscar and the Brazilian converted emphatically from the spot.
Eden Hazard didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get on the score sheet and he made it 7-0 after twisting and turning before firing into the top corner.
Guzan’s lack of culpability for the defeat was emphasized as he saved a spot kick from Piazon.
But there was still time for Ramires to beat the American once more as he side-footed home following more good work from Hazard.
Maybe now Chelsea fans will begin to forget Benitez’s past and the manner in which he was appointed to the Chelsea hot seat.