Chelsea moved within six points of the top six after crushing bottom of the table Aston Villa 4-0. Goals from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Alexandre Pato and a brace from Pedro gave the Blues a much needed victory, and it condemned Villa to a seventh consecutive defeat for a second time this season. Can the champions make a late run into the top six in the league?
Guus Hiddink gave a number of fringe players a chance to impress in this game. Both Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy started in advanced midfield positions, while Matt Miazga made his first start at centre-half. Alexandre Pato finally made his first appearance for the club, but only after coming on for the injured Loic Remy after 23 minutes.
Chelsea made the breakthrough not long after Pato’s appearance. Having had the better of the early stages, the Blues were put in front by youngster Loftus-Cheek, who saw a deflected shot give him a first ever Premier League goal. Having been given a start in the number 10 role, the Englishman ran the show.
The visitors doubled their lead just before half time, with Pato getting a goal on his first game in English football. He was given the perfect chance to open his account, when Aly Cissokho hauled the Brazilian down. The forward converted, meaning he’s already got more league goals than Eden Hazard this season.
After a late goal in the first half, the Blues struck very early in the second. Pedro combined with Pato and the Spaniard got a third just seconds into the second period. That completely ended Villa’s interest in the game. They were absolutely woeful, and they let Chelsea run riot here.
The Blues had the scoring wrapped up before the hour mark, with Pedro the man on the scoresheet again. Brad Guzan was at fault for this goal, making this a day to forget for the Villa keeper. The US international palmed Pato’s shot back in to play. Pedro was the first to the ball, and he converted from a tight angle.
Villa’s awful afternoon got even worse with five minutes left, as Alan Hutton received a second yellow card for a bad foul. The 10 men didn’t concede again, but all round it was an awful day for them. There was no response to the sacking of Remi Garde, while the fans were vocal with their anger.
As for Chelsea, they are now just three points behind seventh place. Could they make a late run for a European place? Despite languishing in 10th, they’re currently on the longest unbeaten run in the top flight this season. Should FA Cup results go the right way, then seventh could be enough to secure a spot in the Europa League. The club might not fancy an early summer return, but surely they’d rather be in Europe?
LCN Man of the Match: Ruben Loftus Cheek