Alexandre Pato scored on his Chelsea début as the Blues ruthlessly put relegation-threatened Aston Villa to the sword at Villa Park.
After Ruben Loftus-Cheek had arrived late to sweep home the Blues’ opener, the Brazilian, on for the injured Loic Remy, took responsibility from the penalty spot after he was unceremoniously bundled over inside the box.
Finishing with aplomb, Pato was involved again after the break as Oscar, another substitute, set up Pedro, who then added a second – and his side’s fourth – when Brad Guzan failed to keep hold of a Pato strike from the edge of the area.
To make matters worse for a side inevitably cruising towards the Premier League trap door, Alan Hutton was shown a second yellow card for a feisty late tackle on Loftus-Cheek as a half-full Villa Park made its frustrations known.
A “mass-protest” soon descended into placards and paper aeroplanes being thrown onto the pitch, but that does little to disguise the fact that the Birmingham side were, once again, humiliated on their home patch.
Chelsea were excellent, admittedly against poor opposition, and this win – one that extends their unbeaten league streak to an impressive fourteen matches – moves them, at least temporarily, to within six points of a Europa League spot.
For both sides, it is a far-cry from last season, where Villa reached the FA Cup final and Chelsea dominated the Premier League from start to finish – but there were at least positive indications for the future from one of today’s teams.
Guus Hiddink named a youthful starting line-up, one that featured only one player over the age of 28 – that person being skipper Branislav Ivanovic. Indeed, in addition to Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy also started, whilst another January signing in Matt Miazga was also given his début due to Gary Cahill’s absence through injury.
The game didn’t get off to the most lively of starts, but the introduction of Pato – replacing the stricken Remy – soon livened proceedings up. Within a minute of his introduction, Cesar Azpilicueta got the better of Aly Cissokho and pulled the ball back for Loftus-Cheek to score his first Premier League goal.
Cissokho was the guilty party on the stroke of half-time as he pulled Pato in the area. Taking the responsibility himself, the Brazilian netted on his début to end two months of purgatory since his move from Corinthians.
It took just 48 seconds after the restart for the Blues to add to their lead, with Pato again the orchestrator of a wonderful passing move that led to Oscar teeing up Pedro, who duly slotted home from six yards. The Spaniard then took advantage of some lacklustre goalkeeping from Guzan, whose parry fell invitingly for the ex-Barcelona man, who struck home the rebound for his sixth goal in the league this term.
There was time, after Hutton’s sending off, for young Jake Clarke-Salter to become the third débutante of the afternoon, with the final third of the match being played at an almost embarrassing pace, one that was more indicative of a pre-season testimonial match as opposed to a game played between two of English football’s powerhouse clubs.
Without immediate investment, it seems Villa will be consigned to the Championship for some time, and it may be a while before Villa Park entertains the Blues in league football again.