Chelsea cruised to victory over managerless Aston Villa in the early Premier League kick off.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek opened the scoring before Alexandre Pato, making his debut four months after arriving in the winter window, doubled their lead from the penalty spot.
A brace from Pedro and a red card for Alan Hutton secured victory for the Blues in the second half, edging Villa, who had this week sacked Remi Garde, ever closer to relegation.
This was a much-changed Blues side – with Abdul Baba Rahman, Matt Miazga, Loftus-Cheek and Loic Remy starting – but Guus Hiddink will have believed the Villans to be the ideal team to experiment against.
All the changes to Chelsea did have an impact, with the rhythm of their play leaving much to be desired and consequently allowing Villa to express themselves perhaps more than anticipated.
Jordan Ayew – one of few whose reputation hasn’t been tarnished at Villa Park this season – looked bright in the final third, unafraid of running at the Blues defence and trying his luck from distance.
So inept is Villa’s back line, though, that it seemed only a matter of time before Chelsea could make their mark.
And, only seconds after Loic Remy had hobbled off, paving the way for Alexandre Pato to finally make his debut, the Blues had the ball in the back of the net.
John Obi Mikel, with neat footwork, eased past three Villa midfielders before sliding the ball to Pedro. The former Barcelona man spread the play out wide to Cesar Azpilicueta – playing at right back – and the defender’s low cross was met by the perfectly timed run of Loftus-Cheek.
The 20-year-old shot first time and, taking a deflection off Lescott, his effort was out of Brad Guzan’s reach, making it 1-0 to the visitors in the 26th minute.
While Chelsea were comfortable having taken the lead, with Cesc Fabregas comfortably dictating the play and bypassing Villa’s midfield, the hosts had a sublime chance to equalise.
Ayew played his way through the Blues defence, creating himself space on the edge of the six-yard box. His curling effort on goal, though, was weak and trickled past the post – only adding to the frustration of the home crowd.
And, Chelsea heaped further misery in added time of the first half – doubling their lead.
Aly Cissokho thoughtlessly wrestled Pato to the ground in the box and the former AC Milan striker confidently stepped up to take the spot kick, making no mistake.
Despite Brad Guzan diving the right way, the strike had the power to beat the American goalkeeper.
It was far from the poorest of Villa performances but, again, the whistle for the break was met with a chorus of boos.
Hiddink made another change at the break, bringing on Oscar – who has fallen out of favour in recent weeks – for Kenedy.
And, only 90 seconds into the second half, the Brazil international had set up Chelsea’s third goal.
Quick build up play between Pato, Oscar and finally Pedro left the latter with one of the easiest finishes of his season, putting the Blues in cruise control.
The Spaniard, in the 59th minute, then got his second of the game.
An error from Guzan saw the goalkeeper spill a weak effort from Pato, leaving the Spanish winger with the simplest of tasks to slot the ball into an empty net.
Four goals up and Chelsea, inevitably, were in command, with the home side’s dejection plain to see.
Hiddink therefore considered this the prime time to give youngster Jake Clarke-Salter his Premier League debut in the 74th minute.
With such a comfortable lead, the Blues’ work had been done, allowing Hiddink’s men to calmly see out the remainder of the game.
To rub further salt into the wounds of the home supporters that had remained in the stands, Alan Hutton saw red with five minutes to go – capping off the worst of starts post-Garde.