Order has been restored at Chelsea, and in quite some style. Huddersfield Town, a side who seem to have resigned themselves to a return to the Championship, were swept aside with aplomb here with Maurizio Sarri able to survey the closing stages with relative satisfaction as his charges plundered at will. Quite what can be concluded from a dismissal of the division’s whipping boys is open to question but, in the context of the last few days, this was restorative.
The home side had shipped four at Bournemouth on Wednesday but would trump that by scoring five of their own against hapless opponents to ensure there would be no need for post-match lock-ins and heartfelt inquests this time round.
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David Luiz’s header, deflected in off Elias Kachunga, would complete the scoring close to the end but the pick of the quintet had been arced gloriously home, right-footed from distance, by Gonzalo Higuaín midway through the second half. It was a goal to showcase Higuaín’s pedigree, a finish to whet the appetite in terms of what the striker might achieve in English football. Huddersfield, dispirited by then, looked broken by the end.
In truth, they had always felt like ideal opponents for a Chelsea side looking to exorcise some of their frustration from midweek. The visitors may be under new management but the task taken on by Jan Siewert was already daunting. By the break, with his team already trailing by two, a 12th defeat in 13 games seemed inevitable. They had offered some promise through Adama Diakhaby’s pace down the right, the forward tearing at Marcos Alonso whenever he could, but there was precious little end product. A Philip Billing shot, blocked by Andreas Christensen, and a tentative prod goalwards by the substitute Steve Mounié represented the extent of their attacking enterprise against a Chelsea team who had been ripped to shreds by Bournemouth.
The hosts had always been more persuasive in the final third, for all that the visitors’ blanket defence had made life stodgy at times. Once the floodgates had been prised apart, there was far less resistance and some of the instinctive movement and forward-thinking felt more progressive. The real encouragement was gleaned from the sight of Higuaín’s clever dart behind Terence Kongolo and away from Christopher Schindler to reach N’Golo Kanté’s cute pass, clipped between defenders after a period of patient buildup down the right had dragged Huddersfield’s players out of position. The Argentinean forward, on his first appearance as a Chelsea player at Stamford Bridge, ripped his finish high inside Jonas Lössl’s near post.
Higuaín had needed that. So much stock has been placed on the 31-year-old loanee – he simply had to hit the ground running to justify the outlay on a player whose profile would not normally fit the Chelsea brief. He barely mustered a meaningful touch at the Vitality stadium, but here offered glimpses of understanding with Eden Hazard that bode well for the immediate future. The striker had already placed a first-time shot from Alonso’s centre into the side-netting when, with half-time approaching, César Azpilicueta charged on to Ross Barkley’s pass and crumpled under Kachunga’s challenge just inside the area.
The visiting players argued the initial contact had come outside the box, but the referee, Paul Tierney, was unmoved. Hazard thumped in the penalty, and would have been cheered further had Schindler’s challenge on him moments later yielded a second spot-kick. It mattered little, the Belgian for ever threatening further reward. Midway through the second period, just as hints of frustration were starting to surface in the stands, there was Chelsea’s No 10 collecting Barkley’s fizzed, incisive pass as he sprinted into the penalty area before wriggling around Lössl and slotting in a 15th club goal of the season to ease any nerves.
Watch Highlight Chelsea 5 vs 0 Huddersfield
Chelsea will have rejoiced in Hazard’s return to his best, though it felt no coincidence that he was thriving a part of a frontline benefiting from a focal point. Higuaín would draw the focus with the brilliance of his second goal, though it was his movement that will have most warmed Sarri.
The Italian had been concerned over the forward’s fitness, but game-time will bring him up to speed. His brace here means he has scored 38 goals in 37 league games in Serie A and the Premier League under Sarri. It will not always be this straightforward, but his plunder here was a promising start.