Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0

Updated: December 24, 2012

A month ago, hate dripped from the steep tiers at  Stamford Bridge as Rafa Benitez appeared on the touchline. Yesterday, the place was thrilled by eight goals. Not once did the Chelsea fans join in song to tell Benitez he wasn’t wanted here.

The last time they saw their team score this many was the final game of the Barclays Premier League season in 2010, when Carlo Ancelotti’s team walloped Wigan to celebrate the first leg of their first Double.

But that was Carlo, a free-wheeling and popular manager who implored his players to attack. This was Rafa, a cautious tactician, always alert to danger, who sat down after an 8-0 win to say: ‘We knew they would be dangerous in the counter-attacks.’

Emotions were all over the place as post-Japan Chelsea returned to the Premier League in emphatic style by condemning Aston Villa to the biggest defeat in their 138-year history.

They may have arrived unbeaten in six games but Paul Lambert’s team went home perilously close to the drop zone with the worst goal difference in the division.

Villa were awful but Chelsea were slick and impressive.

There were eight goals from seven different scorers but there could have been many more.

The Blues even missed a penalty but go into Christmas 11 points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand at home to Southampton.

In a month of Benitez, Fernando Torres has been transformed to the point where he seems to be enjoying his football and refused to sulk off when he was replaced.

The Spain striker opened the scoring in the third minute, rising to meet a deep cross from Cesar Azpilicueta with a majestic header from the edge of the penalty area.

It was his seventh under the new manager and his seventh in the last six games.

‘He scores when he wants,’ sang the fans in the Matthew Harding Stand, saluting the Benitez factor without giving him credit.

This won’t bother the  manager too much. He will take his satisfaction from the aggressive tempo which crushed Villa.

The back five have worked well for Lambert since centre half and  skipper Ron Vlaar was injured but Chelsea forced them deep, creating space for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Victor Moses.

Villa lurched from uncertainty to desperation. Nathan Baker escaped a strong penalty appeal when he appeared to hold Torres and  Chelsea’s second came when Chris Herd sent Hazard tumbling.

David Luiz stepped up and scored the free-kick, a shot which wobbled over the wall and beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan, a good yard inside his post.

Luiz, signed almost two years ago at the same time as Torres, has also endured an oscillating career at the club but appears to have made  significant progress under Benitez, who used him as a deep midfielder yesterday in the absence of John Mikel Obi, who was banned.

The role suits Luiz, certainly when Chelsea control possession. He performed it with success against Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final and was comfortable against Villa.

There is a safety net if he takes an undue risk and loses the ball, as he did at Leeds in the Capital One Cup, yet his team  benefit from his exuberance and unpredictability in attack.

It was one of those days for  Chelsea. Not only were the  converted centre halves threatening Guzan in the Villa goal but so were the unconverted ones.

Guzan produced a terrific reflex save to beat out Gary Cahill’s shot on the spin before the interval but the rebound popped up to his defensive partner Branislav Ivanovic to head in the third.

Fear took hold, mistakes crept in and Christian Benteke never looked like scoring. The only chance of any note fell to Andreas Weimann — on the break, as Benitez predicted — in the second half.

Weimann was denied by Petr Cech, who deflected his low shot on to the bar to protect his clean sheet, despite the fact the contest was already over.

Frank Lampard scored the fourth with a right-foot volley from 30 yards. It was his 190th goal for  Chelsea — three behind Kerry Dixon, who stands second in the all-time goal list for the club — on his 500th Premier League start.

It was also his 130th top-flight goal for the club. No one has more. Lampard was replaced a minute later to a standing ovation. Torres was also taken off to rest ahead of the festive fixtures which will  dictate whether this is to turn into a genuine title fightback.

With Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool for a medical, Moses played the last 23 minutes at centre forward and the Blues finished with a front four of Moses, Oscar, Hazard and Lucas Piazon, an 18-year-old Brazilian making his Premier League debut.

It was a quartet with an average age of just over 20 but Piazon wasted no time making an impact, collecting the ball on the left,  gliding inside and finding Ramires, who scored the fifth. It was a nice pass but did not need to be laser-guided.

Villa were all at sea by this stage and not helped when referee Phil Dowd started to hand out soft penalties.

Herd was penalised for a slight pull on Oscar, who picked himself up to make it six from the spot. Hazard lashed the seventh into the top corner and Piazon missed a  second penalty after he was fouled by Ciaran Clark. Guzan made the save.

It was a very strange afternoon for the American goalkeeper.

Ramires scored the eighth in stoppage time and the Bridge stood to rejoice. For the man they reviled as the Spanish waiter, will it be any different after eight?



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