Match report: Aston Villa 0 Chelsea 4
Chelsea eased to a third successive Premier League away win thanks to two goals in either half.
The 4-0 margin of victory could have been greater but matches our largest ever win at Aston Villa, who were reduced to 10 men late on. It is also marked our 200th triumph on the road in the Premier League.
The main headline for the Blues was a debut goal for sub Pato, who struck a penalty in first-half stoppage time after being bundled to the ground. That was our second of the afternoon following Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s deflected opener.
Two second-half strikes from Pedro put the gloss on an afternoon in which 18-year-old defender Jake Clarke-Salter also made his debut from the substitutes’ bench having been called into the squad following injuries to Gary Cahill and John Terry.
With Kurt Zouma also a long-term casualty, Guus Hiddink afforded Matt Miazga a Chelsea debut in central defence alongside stand-in captain Branislav Ivanovic. Miazga became the first American-born player in our history.
Of our long-distance internationals, Willian did not travel to Birmingham while Oscar was among the substitutes, so Loftus-Cheek started behind lone striker Loic Remy, making his second successive start due to Diego Costa’s suspension.
For the hosts, Remi Garde’s departure meant Eric Black took charge in a caretaker capacity. Former Blue Scott Sinclair was on their bench.
The Blues, wearing our black third kit, began in tidy fashion with both Miazga and Loftus-Cheek quickly settling, though it was the hosts who threatened first when Micah Richards’ header was gathered by Thibaut Courtois after Carles Gil had crossed.
At the other end Pedro curled just over the bar from outside the area after Loftus-Cheek’s persistence had helped win a corner. The Spaniard had the ball in the net not long later, but was adjudged offside after latching onto Cesc Fabregas’ lofty pass.
In between those two moments, Rudy Gestede stung the palms of Courtois with a powerful low drive.
Villa were using their target man effectively with some direct balls, while his counterpart Remy while his counterpart Remy was forced off due to injury, replaced by Pato, who came on for his Chelsea debut.
Two minutes later, we were in front. The goalscorer was Loftus-Cheek, who timed his run into the box perfectly to meet Cesar Azpilicueta’s low cross and sweep home via a slight deflection. Credit must also go to John Mikel Obi, whose clever footwork in midfield had taken him away from two Villa players before spreading the ball wide.
The home side were almost level five minutes later when Courtois was forced into a smart double save, first low to his left from Gil before the rebound bounced back towards goal off Jordan Ayew, the goalkeeper reacting well to grip the ball at head height. The Ghanaian then struck straight into the keeper’s arms from a well-positioned free-kick just outside the box.
Villa were certainly giving it a go despite their perilous position, and they were urged on by a crowd eager to see them bring some consolation to what has been a miserable season so far. Chelsea though were coping well defensively, Miazga getting to grips with Gestede while himself proving a handful at set-pieces.
Baba Rahman nearly doubled the lead when he burst into the area from the left channel, his drive beaten away by Brad Guzan after Fabregas had slotted him in.
It was end to end stuff, and when Villa poured forward again Ayew wasted his third chance, dancing inside a non-committal Chelsea defence before shooting tamely wide from 12 yards.
As is typical when sides are facing relegation, Villa were made to pay for their profligacy. Pato was bundled to the ground inside the box by Aly Cissokho in injury time, and referee Neil Swarbrick did not hesitate to award a penalty.
The Brazilian dusted himself down and smashed home his first goal for the club 20 minutes into his Chelsea career.
At the break Hiddink switched Kenedy with Oscar, and it took less than a minute for the substitute to have an impact.
He exchanged passes with Pato before cutting back for Pedro to slide in Chelsea’s third goal and take the result beyond any doubt. It looked all too simple against some forlorn defending.
Before the hour it was four, Pedro again profiting from good work by the Brazilian substitute pairing to tap into an empty net after Guzan had spilled Pato’s shot. The Spaniard reacted quickest to finish from a tight angle.
The introduction of sparky youngster Jack Grealish brought some respite for the home support, who had been vocalising their frustrations. Grealish did well to find space inside the box and his low cross-shot flew just past the post. It was as close as his side had come in the second period.
Courtois was then quick off his line to punch away Ayew’s cross with Gestede bearing down.
Pedro’s hopes of a hat-trick were dashed 15 minutes from time when he was replaced by debutant Clarke-Salter, who came on in an unfamiliar left-back position with Baba stepping forward onto the left wing.
The Ghanaian international almost scored when he ran in behind the Villa defence, but his sliding effort rolled just the wrong side of the post.
Villa’s afternoon went from beyond bad to even worse five minutes from time when Alan Hutton was dismissed for a second booking following a late challenge on Loftus-Cheek.
As for Chelsea, barring Remy’s injury there were nothing but positives. A clean sheet for Miazga, with confidence-boosting goals for Loftus-Cheek, Pato and Pedro, and a debut for Clarke-Salter. We now look forward to next week’s visit to Swansea City.
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Hutton, Richards (c), Lescott, Cissokho; Sanchez (Bacuna 66), Westwood, Gana (Lyden 83); Gil (Grealish 66), Gestede, Ayew.
Subs: Bunn, Okore, Veretout, Sinclair.
Booked Gana 29, Cissokho 45+2, Sanchez 61, Hutton 78, Westwood 87
Sent off Hutton 85
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic (c), Miazga, Baba; Mikel, Fabregas; Pedro (Clarke-Salter 75), Loftus-Cheek, Kenedy (Oscar h-t); Remy (Pato 23).
Chelsea subs: Begovic, Matic, Traore, Falcao.
Goals Loftus-Cheek 26, Pato (pen) 45+3, Pedro 46, 58
Booked Fabregas 29
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