Two goals each for Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard, and one late on by David Luiz, gave the Blues a comfortable and confidence-boosting victory at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
Higuain, making his home Premier League debut, fired home on 16 minutes with the type of predatory strike he has made a career out of. His second goal, after Hazard had netted two of his own, was a stunning effort from range that epitomised a fine afternoon’s work for the team, and delivered the perfect riposte to the humiliating setback at Bournemouth.
Hazard’s first of the day was a penalty on the stroke of half-time, and his second a clinical finish that put us 3-0 up before Higuain’s howitzer lit up the Bridge.
David Luiz got in on the act with his second header at the Matthew Harding End this season, but today was all about Higuain and Hazard, two men who will be key if Chelsea are to finish in the top four.
The victory, Chelsea biggest under Maurizio Sarri, moves us back above Arsenal ahead of their game at Manchester City tomorrow. The Etihad is also the venue of Chelsea next outing and the Blues will head north full of optimism after a much-needed victory.
Andreas Christensen started a Chelsea game for the 50th time, his inclusion in place of Toni Rudiger one of four changes from Wednesday’s chastening loss. Marcos Alonso, Ross Barkley and Willian were the other fresh faces.
Following hard on the heels of a half of football when the Blues had, as Sarri put it, ‘stopped playing’, a bright start to today’s game against the bottom-placed club was imperative. Barkley nearly had the home support celebrating inside a couple of minute, but his 25-yarder flashed wide.
Huddersfield, beaten in 10 of their last 11 league matches, showed intent of their own soon after when Aaron Mooy headed Chris Lowe’s cross narrowly over Kepa’s bar.
That chance aside, it was Chelsea who dominated the opening half-hour, regularly finding space between the lines to threaten the Terriers’ goal. On 10 minutes, Higuain latched onto Jorginho’s lofted first-time pass and shot wide via a deflection. David Luiz fired over from the resulting corner, and Hazard then had a couple of sighters from the edge of the box, one blocked and the other saved at the second attempt.
So it was no surprise when Higuain thumped us ahead on the quarter-hour. Kante supplied the ammunition with a cute pass round the corner, and Higuain’s movement was too sharp for the fluorescent-shirted defenders, giving himself the yard he needed to fire high past Jonas Lossl at his near post.
Barkley scuffed wide as Chelsea sought an instant second, and Higuain’s next effort was into the side-netting after David Luiz had superbly found Alonso.
Adama Diakhaby was Huddersfield’s brightest spark, and after one marauding run down the right wing Philip Billing had a clear sight of goal, but Christensen got across to block superbly.
That chance came during the visitors’ best passage of play, but Chelsea reasserted themselves towards the half’s conclusion and doubled Chelsea advantage in time added on. Cesar Azpilicueta’s run into the box ended when Elias Kuchanga pushed him from behind, and Hazard sent Lossl the wrong way from the spot for league goal number 11 this season.
The Belgian thought he should have had a penalty of his own after a mesmeric run from deep was ended by Schindler, but the ref waved play on and so Chelsea’s lead stood at two as the teams headed in.
Willian curled over on his left when play restarted and another dazzling Hazard run had the Stamford Bridge faithful on their feet, but it came to nothing.
Chelsea no.10 was frustrated to see an inviting low centre across the six-yard not attacked, so he went it alone midway through the second period with devastating effect. Taking Barkley’s hard pass in his stride with a deft touch, Hazard slipped the ball around Lossl and finished from a tight angle on his left.
It was a fine goal, but it only took three minutes to be bettered.
Hazard was again involved, finding Kante who cushioned the ball into Higuain’s path, 25 yards out. His first-time effort pointed to a man full of confidence; the accuracy and pace of the strike, whipped into the top right-hand corner, highlighted Higuain’s undoubted class. It took the breath away, and put us 4-0 up.
Immediately Mateo Kovacic replaced Jorginho, a move Sarri had spoken in midweek about exploring following the departure of Cesc Fabregas. The Croatian saw a dangerous shot deflected over, and Higuain was denied a treble by another Terriers block.
With time running out, David Luiz added the cherry on top of the cake with a header from Willian’s corner that the luckless Kachunga deflected past Lossl. A five-star showing to begin a big month for the Blues.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, David Luiz, Alonso; Kante (Loftus-Cheek 83), Jorginho (Kovavic 70), Barkley; Willian, Higuain, Hazard (Hudson-Odoi 77).
Unused subs Caballero, Rudiger, Pedro, Giroud.
Scorers Higuain 16, 69, Hazard 45+1, 66, David Luiz 86
Huddersfield (4-5-1): Lossl; Smith, Schindler, Kongolo, Lowe; Mbenza (Mounie 27), Billing (Grant 67), Bacuna, Mooy, Diakhaby (Pritchard,84); Kachunga.
Unused subs Hamer, Zanka, Hadergjonaj, Puncheon.
Referee Paul Tierney