By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 3 v Aston Villa 0
Romelu Lukaku just does what Lukaku does and he smashed home a brace – the first and last in a 3-0 victory over a rugged and organised Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in the late afternoon game.
The three points aided by a smart, opportunistic goal from Mateo Kovacic puts the west Londoners joint top of the Premier League with Manchester United on 10 points.
Villa can count themselves unlucky not to have had a share of the spoils as this was by no means a defensive masterclass by the champions of Europe, but with goalkeeper Mendy in fine form, and some last interceptions by Thiago Silva, Chelsea held off the attacks by the Villians, often generated by poor decision-making by the Blues.
In particular Saul Niguez – the midfielder had a bit of a horror debut and was binned at half-time for Jorginho.
But this match was all about Lukaku and what a difference he brings to a side that are already champions of Europe.
The Blues started brightly without creating any goal-bound chances, but gradually, they dropped the pace allowing Villa more possession.
The visitors’ Jacob Ramsey was booked on eight minutes giving Saul his first meaningful chance on the ball. It resulted in a corner from the Blues.
Callum Hudson-Odoi took the kick which was glanced on by Toni Rudiger. It bounced off Ezra Konsa before getting deflected onto the underside of the crossbar and then cleared.
the Villa defence was pierced on 15 minutes when a brilliant run and pass by Mateo Kovacic found Romelu Lukaku. The Belgium striker raced into the Villa penalty area, latched onto the ball, turned Axel Tuanzebe into the ground before plonking the ball past Jed Steer, to open the score. But three minutes later, Villa were up the other end of the pitch and Olly Watkins’s edge of the box, right-footer saw Mendy dive down to his right and tip the ball away for a corner.
New boy Saul Niguez almost committed the cardinal sin of holding onto the ball, getting dispossessed and conceding a goal.
He did the first two on 24 minutes, he was saved by a late lunge by Thiago Silva to prevent Watkins’s shot becoming an unnecessary equaliser
Mendy was called upon to make a double save to thwart Tyrone Mings and the Konsa on 34 minutes as Villa fully deserved to be level.
They have identified Chelsea;s right side, of Hudson-Odoi, Trevoh Chalobah and Saul as a weakness and piled pressure on it with forceful rounds by Danny Ings and Watkins.
Kovacic was dispossessed in midfield allowing Ramsey to race through and get a shot away. Mendy was in top form once again to keep the score at 1-0.
Saul’s shocker of a first half resulted with a predictable half-time substitution by head coach Thomas Tuchel – Jorginho replaced the on-loan Spanish midfielder from Atletico Madrid.
A horror back pass by Tyrone Mings three minutes after the restart, where he hoped to pass back to Steer saw the ball hold up on the newly-watered surface and Kovacic darted in to clip the ball past the goalkeeper to double the score for the west Londoners.
Tuchel wanted to add a bit more steel to their play and so took off Ki Havertz and replaced him with Cesar Azpilicueta.
Hudson-Odoi move up front replacing Havertz.
But the winger was soon replaced by Timo Werner with nine minutes left on the clock.
Deep into four ,inured of added time. A quick break by Chelsea saw Azpilicueta pass the ball to the left boot of Lukaku, just outside the Villa area. And the hit man thundered home an unstoppable effort that left Steer rooted to the spot.
Teams: Mendy, Silva, Rudiger, Hudson-Odoi, Kovacic, Saul, Alonso, Ziyech, Havertz, Lukaku
Subs: Kepa, Christensen, Jorginho, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Mount, Chilwell, Azpilicueta
Villa: Steer, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Tuanzebe, Targett, Ramsey, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Ings, Watkins
Subs: Samson, Traore, Young, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Hause, Bailey, Archer, Sinisalo.
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