Alexandre Pato marked his long-awaited Chelsea debut with a goal as the Blues won 4-0 to leave crisis club Aston Villa teetering on the brink of relegation at the end of a miserable week.
Having parted company with manager Remi Garde on Tuesday, and then seen Gabriel Agbonlahor suspended amid an investigation into his conduct, interim Villa boss Eric Black presided over a limp performance at a frustrated Villa Park, where supporters voiced their anger and despair and displayed banners venting their feelings.
On the pitch, Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first Premier League goal gave Chelsea the lead before Pato’s introduction for his maiden Chelsea appearance following his signing in January.
The Brazilian soon converted a penalty he won himself and he was also instrumental in the second half, combining with countryman Oscar to create two goals for Pedro, as the Blues’ slender hopes of a top-six finish were given a boost.
Alan Hutton’s late sending off ended a dismal afternoon on another low note for Villa, who have suffered seven defeats in a row for a second time this season.
With Gary Cahill and John Terry both ruled out with minor injuries, Chelsea handed a debut to 20-year-old defender Matt Miazga, while Micah Richards and Carlos Sanchez returned to the Villa side.
Villa have endured heavy criticism from supporters for a perceived lack of effort this season, but Carles Gil sought to energise his side with a number of surging runs forward in a tepid opening.
At the other end, Pedro turned smartly to create the space to shoot from 20 yards and his bending effort was only just wide of Brad Guzan’s goal.
A knock for Loic Remy saw the Frenchman replaced by Pato after 22 minutes, and a few moments later the visitors took the lead.
John Obi Mikel’s quick feet pulled Villa apart in midfield and Chelsea shifted the play out to Cesar Azpilicueta, whose low cross was side-footed into the net by Loftus-Cheek via a slight deflection off Joleon Lescott.
Villa almost hit back when Gil latched onto Jordan Ayew’s pass and arrowed in a shot from a tight angle, but Thibaut Courtois was equal to it and made a diving save.
There were further chances for Villa to level matters, but the game drifted out of their reach in first-half injury time when Aly Cissokho wrestled Pato to the ground in the area and the Brazilian lashed his penalty beyond Guzan.
The introduction of Oscar further galvanised Chelsea after the break, and he combined brilliantly with Pato to set up Pedro, who slammed home from close range a minute after the restart.
As Villa fans held up a banner that read ‘No fight, no pride, no effort, no hope’, their players offered little to challenge the accuracy of those statements, and Chelsea soon made it 4-0 when Guzan could only palm Pato’s shot into the path of Pedro, who gladly netted his second of the game.
Just as it looked as bad as it could get for Villa, Hutton was dismissed late on for a challenge on Loftus-Cheek that earned him a second yellow card, and a late chance for Ayew went begging along with any remaining shreds of hope Villa fans might have had of staying up this season.
Key Opta stats:
– Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored his first Premier League goal in his 11th appearance for Chelsea.
– Alexandre Pato is the sixth Brazilian to score on his Premier League debut, following Geovanni, Robinho, Gilberto, Ilan and Willian.
– Oscar assisted Pedro’s first goal within a minute of entering the field at half-time.
– Two of the five occasions Aston Villa have lost by four goals or more at Villa Park in the Premier League have come in 2015-16 (also 6-0 v Liverpool).
– Chelsea have now set the longest unbeaten run of any team in the Premier League this season, going 15 games without a loss (W7 D8).
– Villa have lost seven consecutive games for the second separate time this season.
– Guus Hiddink remains unbeaten in the Premier League since he returned as Chelsea boss (W6 D8).
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