Chelsea overcame a combative Aston Villa side to seal a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening, with Romelu Lukaku netting a fine brace.
After a frenetic opening quarter of an hour, Lukaku settled the Blues' nerves with a clinical piece of centre-forward work. Mateo Kovacic followed a mazy dribble by picking the Belgian out with a perfectly-weighted, airborne through ball before Lukaku cut inside Axel Tuanzebe's despairing lunch and coolly finished.
Villa had the better of the rest of the first half, however, with Ollie Watkins first being denied by an excellent Edouard Mendy save before somehow scuffing another shot and seeing it blocked by Thiago Silva having bypassed the keeper.
Mendy was called into action again after half an hour, saving a thumped effort from Tyrone Mings before springing up to push Ezri Konsa's follow-up away.
Having wasted numerous opportunities, Villa became their own worst enemy four minutes after the break; Mings' awful back pass was seized upon by Kovacic, who clipped the ball delicately into the back of the net.
That sucker punch seemed to nullify Villa's threat for the duration of the second half, with the visitors coming nowhere close to the number of clear-cut chances they had created in the first period.
Lukaku then popped up again in injury time to add some gloss to the scoreline, blasting the ball into the roof of the net following some excellent wing play from Cesar Azpilicueta.
Here's how both sets of players rated...
CHELSEA PLAYER RATINGS
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Edouard Mendy (GK) - 9/10 - Great save to maintain the lead and keep Watkins' good effort out just after the opener. Another fantastic double save from Mings and Konsa later in the first half.
Trevoh Chalobah (CB) - 7/10 - Lost the ball in a dangerous area and should have been punished by Ings early on. Recovered well though and was part of a staunch rearguard action for the Blues.
Thiago Silva (CB) - 8/10 - Incredible block to deny Watkins a certain leveller. Chelsea were ragged at the back at times but he showed his class throughout.
Antonio Rudiger (CB) - 7/10 - Typically strong, aggressive and marauding. Hilariously blasted miles over from about 50 yards. Lovely bid of needle with John McGinn.
2. Wing-backs & midfielders
Callum Hudson-Odoi (RWB) - 7/10 - Hit the bar with a wicked in-swinging corner early on. Confident and tricky throughout. Subbed late.
Mateo Kovacic (CM) - 9/10 - What. An. Assist. Skipped clear in midfield before firing an airborne, threaded pass into Lukaku, who made no mistake. Gifted a goal right at the start of the second period and finished gleefully. Most passes, most touches.
Saul Niguez (CM) - 4/10 - Nervous debut. Ponderous and surrendered possession on a number of occasions, nearly gifting Watkins a goal. Baptism of fire with Villa's physical approach in midfield. Hooked at half-time. Eek.
Marcos Alonso (LWB) - 6/10 - Workman-like display. Unable to contribute as much as usual as he was pushed back by Villa's press. Lashed a late shot just wide.
Hakim Ziyech (RF) - 7/10 - Neat and tidy but probably didn't influence the game as much as he'd like. Barely lost the ball though and didn't put a foot wrong. Constantly looking to create.
Romelu Lukaku (ST) - 8/10 - Wonderful, clinical opener, chopping inside Tuanzebe and coolly finishing - his first goal at Stamford Bridge. Didn't see much of him after, but still popped up with a fine second blasted home in injury time. Dreamland
Kai Havertz (LF) - 6/10 - Lovely, Eden Hazard-esque flick into Rudiger in the opening exchanges. Picked out wonderfully soon after the break but dragged his shot. Withdrawn around the hour mark.
Jorginho (CM) - 7/10 - Steadied the midfield ship in Saul's absence.
Cesar Azpilicueta (RB) - 6/10 - Assisted Lukaku's second.
Timo Werner (ST) - N/A
ASTON VILLA PLAYER RATINGS
5. Goalkeeper & defenders
Jed Steer (GK) - 6/10 - No saves of note, but no chance with the goals.
Ezri Konsa (CB) - 6/10 - Denied Hudson-Odoi an early goal direct from a corner, brilliantly turning the ball onto the bar. Should have scored himself, but Mendy had other ideas.
Tyrone Mings (CB) - 5/10 - Booked for a needless lunge on Hudson-Odoi way up the pitch. Aerial presence caused Chelsea issues. Should have scored but denied by Mendy. Horrid back pass seized upon by Kovacic for 2-0.
Axel Tuanzebe (CB) - 6/10 - Over-committed and made to look a bit silly by Lukaku for the opener. Recovered, but made no odds.
6. Wing-backs & midfielders
Matty Cash (RWB) - 6/10 - Typically forceful in the challenge, but unable to keep Chelsea out.
John McGinn (CM) - 7/10 - Lead Villa's intense press, hassling a shaky Saul in particular. Still dangerous after the break as Villa faded.
Douglas Luiz (CM) - 6/10 - Anchored the midfield with poise. Broke up play and some lovely passes to break the lines. Couldn't get close to Kovacic at times, though. Subbed.
Jacob Ramsey (CM) - 6/10 - Booked for an incredibly cynical early foul. Carried the ball well and stung Mendy's fingertips later in the half. Sacrificed for more attacking threat after Chelsea went two up.
Matt Targett (LWB) - 5/10 - Struggled against Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Azpilicueta. Booked.
Danny Ings (ST) - 5/10 - Wasted a great chance to play Watkins in in the first ten minutes. Struggled to get involved thereafter. Subbed.
Ollie Watkins (ST) - 7/10 - Always a threat. Looked to have equalised immediately, but for a stunning Mendy save. Spurned an even bigger chance as Silva blocked his scuffed shot. Header off the line late on too.
Leon Bailey (AM) - 6/10 - Lovely turn and nutmeg to draw a foul and yellow card for Alonso. Live wire.
Bertrand Traore (ST) - 6/10
Marvellous Nakamba (CM) - N/A