Chelsea produced their best performance of the season to trounce Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge to move back up to third in the Premier League table.
The Blues had suffered a stuttering start under interim boss Rafa Benitez but have finally clicked into gear at a crucial point in the season, winning five of their last six games in all competitions, and provided more evidence of their improvement under the Spaniard.
For the visitors it was an afternoon to forget and manager Paul Lambert will be hoping morale in the dressing room hasn’t depleted to a critical level as they fight to remain clear of the relegation zone heading into the New Year.
Only three minutes had passed before the home side had drawn first blood when Fernando Torres met Branislav Ivanovic’s teasing centre to power home a header from 15-yards for his seventh goal in eight games.
It got worse for Villa as Chelsea effectively ended the game as a contest with two goals in five minutes towards the end of the half. David Luiz, reborn as a holding midfielder under Benitez, curled home a sumptuous free kick in the 29th minute to make it 2-0.
Ivanovic then showed the predatory instinct of a world class forward to head Gary Cahill’s mis-hit past Brad Guzan. The away side enjoyed 15 minutes of brief respite after the break before Frank Lampard capped his 500th league start with a goal straight from his copybook, rifling the ball into the bottom corner from 25 yards.
And in a torturous final 15 minutes the west London club struck a further four goals, Ramires slotting home from substitute Lucas Piazon’s pass before Oscar scored from the penalty spot after being fouled by Chris Herd.
Eden Hazard added the seventh after showing sublime feet to work himself into space and driving the ball into the top corner from inside the penalty area.
There was still time for Piazon to miss a penalty on his league debut before Ramires blasted in his second to complete the scoring and cap a remarkable victory for Chelsea.