Chelsea go 15 games unbeaten in the Premier League with a meaningless but comprehensive win away at Aston Villa.
Both sides have little to play for, with the hosts destined for the Championship and the visitors mid-table mediocrity, but the quality of the current champions shone through with goals from Loftus-Cheek, Pato and Pedro’s brace.
It will please manager Hiddink, who rotated his side to feature the likes of Miazga, Loftus-Cheek and eventually Clarke-Salter, and the youngsters did not disappoint, though a sense of perspective must be maintained against a half-hearted Villa side.
It leaves the Blues still some 10 points off the Top Four with seven games remaining, with even the six points needed for a Europa League spot looking unlikely.
Chelsea’s future will not contain Hiddink much longer so it was pleasing to see the 69-year-old field some Chelsea youngsters who might indeed be the future of the club.
Miazga was given his debut, by default given injuries to Zouma, Cahill and Terry, to become Chelsea’s first American player, whilst at the other end Willian was rested to give Loftus-Cheek and Pedro a chance to shine.
The latter was certainly keen to stamp his experienced authority over his colleagues, curling one over from a corner before having the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed for offside.
Gestede was the more effective attacker on the field as opposed to Remy, whose day ended abruptly mid-way through the first half. Pato would get his belated debut having signed for the club in January.
It was Loftus-Cheek who got the game’s first goal, getting on the end of Azpilicueta’s cross to shoot past Guzan thanks to a big deflection off Lescott. It was his first Premier League goal in 11 appearances.
Villa tried to get back in the game through Ayew but a second Chelsea goal just before half-time killed off all hope for the game and indeed their survival chances. Pato was bundled over and given the spot-kick duties, tucking away to Guzan’s right.
Oscar came on at half-time and assisted Pedro’s first goal — and Chelsea’s third — just 48 seconds into the second half.
The Brazilian exchanged a neat one-two with fellow Brazilian Pato and teed up Spaniard Pedro to side-foot home. It looked simple and oozed class, but Villa’s defence did not cover themselves in glory.
One became two for Pedro by the hour mark, as Pato’s shot was weakly saved by Guzan right into the path of Pedro to tap home. It was his sixth Premier League goal, with only Diego Costa having scored more this campaign.
Courtois was looking shaky all afternoon from crosses, flapping away at any Villa long ball but thankfully for the Belgian, and indeed new entrant Jake Clarke-Salter, Villa’s chances were few and far between.
Villa’s misery was compounded when Hutton was given his marching orders as the fans voiced their discontent.
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Man of the Match
PEDRO: You have to bear in mind the level (or lack of) of the opposition who looked resigned all afternoon, but the job still has to be done and this was Pedro’s attitude. The Spaniard scored two confidence-boosting goals and it is admirable to see still some effort from a Chelsea side with nothing to play for as Pedro certainly still has a lot to prove after an average season. 7/10
Hiddink understood there was nothing to lose by playing youngsters: “It’s good to see Loftus-Cheek, Clarke-Salter and Miazga coming in. We cannot win any [trophy] which makes it easier. It’s good to see how they deal with the pressure. I always like to bring in youngsters and now we have the rest of the season to do it more frequently.”
Black said some people-pleasing words: “If you’re bottom of the league and have won three games all season, you’re not going to be flying high. We have to be professional until the end, and do our utmost for the club and supporters.”
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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