Chelsea produced a devastating performance to thrash Aston Villa 8-0 at Stamford Bridge in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Sunday. Fernando Torres headed in the opening goal inside three minutes and the goals just kept coming for the home side. David Luiz fired in a free-kick before Branislav Ivanovic put Chelsea three up at the break. After the interval, Frank Lampard drilled home a long-range effort to mark his 500th Premier League start. Ramires added a brace, Oscar scored from the spot and Eden Hazard got in on the act to consign Villa to their heaviest ever Premier League defeat.
Frank Lampard started a Premier League match for the first time since early October while Victor Moses was once again selected ahead of Oscar. The returning Ramires had to be content with a place on the bench.
Unsurprisingly Aston Villa were unchanged from the side which beat Liverpool 3-1 last weekend, although Stephen Ireland was fit to be named among the substitutes after missing their last match through illness. Skipper Ron Vlaar and striker Gabriel Agbonlahor failed to recover from calf and thigh problems respectively.
Rafa Benitez utilised David Luiz in a deep-lying midfield role alongside Lampard. The former Liverpool boss has appeared keen to get the ball forward to Fernando Torres far quicker and try to get support for the forward from the midfield trio of Moses, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. Gary Cahill was selected at the back, presumably to deal with the physical threat of Christian Benteke.
Paul Lambert continued with his tactic of playing a back-three after the success at Anfield. But with Torres playing the lone frontman role, there was an issue whether it would be the wide defenders in the three or the wing-backs who would be picking up Moses and Hazard. This proved a significant problem for the visitors.
The game was effectively over by the time Lucas Piazon, Ramires and Oscar got involved but all three were heavily involved as the game became a rout. Piazon, making his Premier League debut, came up with a wonderful pass to find Ramires, who beat Brad Guzan for the first of his two goals. Later Piazon had the chance to score from the spot but saw the goalkeeper save his effort. By that point, Oscar had already won and converted a penalty of his own as Villa wilted under pressure.
Lambert introduced Stephen Ireland, Joe Bennett and then Jordan Bowery but it was to no avail and Villa continued to ship goals.
It was not the tetchiest of games given the gulf between the sides but Phil Dowd did have two penalties to award. Chris Herd pulled back Oscar for the first and Piazon then went down under a challenge from Ciaran Clark. Villa were not in the mood to complain too much by that point.
Chelsea were superb in all areas so perhaps the main man should be the coach himself. There can be a tendency for managers at Stamford Bridge to avoid tinkering too much given the strong characters at the club and the feeling that coaches are just passing through the place. But the interim boss has certainly put his own stamp on the team - putting Ivanovic back in the centre, moving Luiz into midfield and getting Torres firing.
Lambert was less impressed and accused his team of not turning up. He might at least take comfort in the fact that his young side kept battling to the end despite the scoreline suggesting otherwise.
Chelsea are back up to third in the Premier League and with their overseas adventures over for some time now the focus will be back on the league campaign. Benitez has stressed the need to take it one game at a time but this performance did at least provide some encouragement that the European champions are capable of putting a run together.
For Villa this was a horrible experience to endure after the highs of recent weeks. Perhaps it is the nature of a young side - especially one experimenting with new formations - that there will be setbacks along the way. As Lambert noted after the game, there is simply no time to dwell on this result as Villa host Tottenham on Boxing Day.