Romelu Lukaku scores twice as Chelsea survive spirited Aston Villa performance

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Chelsea continued an unbeaten start to the season with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa  (Getty Images)
Chelsea continued an unbeaten start to the season with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa (Getty Images)

Chelsea continued their unbeaten start to the Premier League season as they survived a spirited Aston Villa performance

Romelu Lukaku ended a curious goalscoring duck as he scored his first goals at Stamford Bridge, taking the opener nicely in the first half before adding a crisply-struck second to seal a 3-0 win in stoppage time.

Mateo Kovacic also scored, deftly beating Jed Steer after pouncing on a hopelessly underhit back-pass from Tyrone Mings under pressure on the edge of his own box.

The scoreline reflects a more one-sided affair than that which played out at Stamford Bridge.

The visitors had the better of the first fifty minutes or so, able to dominate the midfield and create a string of fine chances.

With a one-man advantage in the centre of the park, John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and particularly Jacob Ramsey were able to disrupt Chelsea possession.

Edouard Mendy was forced into a succession of sharp reaction saves, while Thiago Silva, cleared to play after Brazil lifted plans to impose a suspension on players who did not join up for international duty, used all of his nous and experience to block brilliantly after Ollie Watkins had moved beyond the goalkeeper

That Watkins opportunity came after debutant Saul Niguez was dispossessed by an ankle-biting McGinn.

The summer loan signing from Atletico Madrid struggled in the Chelsea midfield, repeatedly hassled by Villa’s busy triumvirate and failing to impart any tempo.

Indeed the Spaniard failed to re-emerge after the interval, lasting only 45 minutes as he made his Chelsea bow.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s opener (Getty Images)
Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s opener (Getty Images)

The moment of undisputed quality in the game’s opening stanza came from his midfield partner.

Beating a man inside his own half, Kovacic darted through midfield, steadying himself to release a perfect pass between the lines.

It arced into the path of Lukaku, who deftly feigned a shot to send Axel Tuanzebe stumbling away on unsteady stilettos and fired beyond stand-in goalkeeper Jed Steer.

However that was to be Chelsea’s lone genuine opening of a first half where they struggled for control.

Tuchel thus called for midfield metronome Jorginho to replace a disappointing Saul at half-time, and the tidy Italian immediately exuded easy calm.

His presence solidified Chelsea, before the visitors were punctured by an unforced error that took the gusts from Villa’s canvas sheets that had until then flown well at Stamford Bridge.

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Mings had been put in difficulty by a teammate but failed to sort his feet out, leaving his putt shot and watching with anguish as Kovacic fed on the carrion, beating Steer in composed fashion that belied a modest goalscoring record.

From that point the visitors were unable to force consistent clear chances, even after the introduction of fit-again summer signing Leon Bailey and former Chelsea man Bertrand Traore.

Smith will rue his side’s failure to find the telling touch in a first half in which they were largely dominant.

The Aston Villa manager had opted to match the home side’s five-at-the-back system, a system that largely worked, with Lukaku kept, by his standards, largely on the periphery until his fine late strike.

There were signs, too, of developing chemistry between Ings and Watkins, a striking duo that will continue to cause problems for sides.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Yet Chelsea settled after the interval, and rarely looked threatened in the second half as they continued their unbeaten start to move level on points with Manchester United, who top the Premier League table.

There was a concern in stoppage time as the influential Jorginho suffered a knock after a lunging challenge from John McGinn.

The Italian appeared ok, however, ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League group stage opener against Zenit St Petersburg.

And in Lukaku, Tuchel has one of Europe’s best strikers, able to find the net with the only two clear chances that fell his way during an otherwise relatively quiet 90 minutes.

The Belgian had not scored at Stamford Bridge in 14 previous appearances at Chelsea’s home but will prepare for the visit of Zenit off the mark in his new abode as Tuchel’s side begin the defence of their Champions League crown.

It was Chelsea’s 600th Premier League win, following Manchester United to the landmark as the only sides to reach the figure since the league’s inception in 1992.

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