Chelsea 5-0 Huddersfield Town: Blues ease pressure on Sarri with five-star performance to move back into the top-four
(Getty Images - Chloe Knott)

Chelsea 5-0 Huddersfield Town: Blues ease pressure on Sarri with five-star performance to move back into the top-four

A rampant display from the Blues saw them respond from embarrassing defeats to Bournemouth and Arsenal to take apart the relegation doomed Huddersfield Town.

Joshua Kerr
Chelsea F.C.Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso, Jorginho (Kovacic 70), Kante (Loftus-Cheek 83), Barkley, Willian, Hazard (Hudson-Odoi 77), Higuain.
Huddersfield TownLossl, Smith, Schindler, Kongolo, Löwe, Mooy, Bacuna, Billing (Grant 67), Mbenza (Mounie 27), Kachunga, Diakhaby (Pritchard 84)
SCORE1-0, Min.16, Higuain, 2-0, Min.45+1, Hazard (PEN), 3-0, Min.66, Hazard, 4-0, Min.69, Higuain, 5-0, Min.86, Luiz

As the country gleamed in white following it’s latest kiss from the midweek snow on-set, Maurizio Sarri and his players responded from successive league embarrassments to temporarily return to those vital Champions League positions with a rampant 5-0 win to put the relegation doomed Huddersfield Town to the sword.

Braces from Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard, as well as a header from David Luiz, lifted Chelsea to their biggest victory of the season to put recent horror shows swiftly to bed. 

The Blues found it almost effortless to stroll to their first three points following embarrassing performances against Bournemouth and Arsenal in the league.

At times, it seemed they weren’t even working particularly hard. For the written off Huddersfield Town, it was too cold for them, too wet, too difficult, ultimately a Bridge too far. 

For Sarri, it was all about responding in the face of adversity, putting an end to the gruelling rumours that this was a man doomed to fail, a man destined to fall in the same grim circumstances as Luiz Felipe Scolari and André Villas-Boas as opposed to the hallmark of fame that held Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte before their demise.

However, on the basis of today if there was one thing learned from a slick showing it was the obsession the Chelsea boss has shown with bringing Higuain to Stamford Bridge following the Argentine's brace on his home league debut.

Higuain - alongside Hazard who also bagged a double - was utterly dazzling in attack to breeze past the visitors. If the so-called 'laboured' striker is to save Chelsea's season there was enough evidence off the basis of today that the forward is the attacking-focal point the Blues have been craving all season.

Football teams are at their most fascinating in the gloom of poor form. You learn more about them and come to better understand their texture, their DNA. How do they respond, could the players justify the wrongdoing of Sarri claiming they are a team difficult to motivate; on this evidence, Chelsea proved their merit.

The issue at hand – at its most malignant – was embodied by the swift descent from the levels achieved against in previous outings against Manchester City and Spurs in the League Cup. Chelsea can be magnificent on their day, but frustratingly inconsistent. Six days on from their semi-final heroics, they were humbled to a Bournemouth side that had only won three of their last 15 league matches. 

A natural comedown perhaps following the ecstasy that surrounded their recovery to beat Spurs to Wembley as well as progress into the last-16 of the FA Cup days later - the competition they wish to retain, but events of the past week have shown that in spite of the new manager, the illustrious signing of Higuain, they retain the same nucleus of corruption that spread to infect the tenures of both Premier League winning managers Mourinho and Conte. 

Despite this, Sarri's players showed spirit and guile this afternoon to lift the mood in the capital and put to bed their worst league defeat in 23 years with an accomplished five-star showing to take them back into the top-four of the Premier League.

Story of the match

By kick-off, it was cold but bright with flutters of snow dancing amongst the sidelines where ground staff had worked tirelessly to get this spectacle underway without interruption. 

It wasn’t quite a freezing evening in Bournemouth, but for Chelsea, the challenge was just as steep. Three days on from that humiliating 4-0 defeat, during which they found themselves three goals down to the Cherries only one year and a day from the same 3-0 embarrassment at the Bridge a year ago, Sarri’s players arrived here on the rebound, stepping into the frozen capital in pursuit of some pride.

The Terriers returned to the ground that guaranteed their top-flight survival in this fixture last season. Stamford Bridge had become a platform for recent good memories. 

However, it seems rather ironic that the same ground in which they secured their survival last campaign became the venue that all but sealed Jan Siewert and his team's fate as the Blues put another nail in the Huddersfield coffin in only the German’s second match in charge.

A half-time lead that certainly failed to reflect an opening half of fine margins. Whatever Siewert said in his pre-match talk it certainly paid dividends to an energised and tectonic Huddersfield side who really took the game to the hosts in the opening exchanges.

The visitors responded from their early wakeup call that allowed Ross Barkley a free shot at goal that the Blues midfielder angled just wide. The Terriers intensity was rewarded with a miraculous opportunity that allowed Aaron Mooy a free header from a Chris Lowe cross.

The Australian international misjudged and overconnected his header wide. The chance got Sarri off his feet who looked perplexed his side were showing the league's bottom of the pile so much respect.

Chelsea then came alive. Higuain jerked a shot wide before Jonas Lossl denied Hazard with a fine save. The Belgian was at it again minutes later darting in off the left to have a shot well blocked Christopher Schindler

The breakthrough eventually became inevitable and the opening goal was an exuberance of flamboyance from the hosts with a fine passage of play finalised when N'Golo Kante slid in Higuain who thundered home his maiden goal for the Blues on his home league debut.

Barkley then missed a golden opportunity seconds later with a rushed shot, but it didn't matter for the hosts who were beginning to grow in stature.

Luiz - so often criticised for his defensive frailties - could not be faulted for his marksman range of passing. The Brazilian hit countless diagonal balls that were executed to perfection with one finding Marcos Alonso on the left-hand side who struck a low cross that fell to Higuain who stroked his shot at the side netting.

If Chelsea were guilty of misadjusting to the term 'Sarri ball' then their actions spoke otherwise following an exquisite passage of play that touched almost every Blues player before finding the host's skipper Cezar Azpilicueta who drove a thunderous shot from 20-yards at Lossl who calmly collected.

Hazard - someone who had been recently criticised by his manager for lacking leadership qualities - suddenly culminated the buzz around the ground when his electrifying pace left Tommy Smith for dead before his cross deflected for a corner. 

Despite their lead, Chelsea failed to silence the determined visitors who threatened on a number of occasions with winger Adama Diakhaby acting as their main attacking threat with a number of darts at the Blues goal that failed to test shot-stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

There were no questions about the manner of class concerning the host's opening goal, but controversy took it's course on the second when referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot when Azpilicueta hit the deck following a tangling inside the box with striker Kachunga.

Any doubt surrounding the spot-kick was quickly guillotined by Hazard who sent Lossl the wrong way to double proceedings right on the stroke of half-time and the Blues nearly went three to the good when Luiz missed a free header from a Willian corner.

Sarri's troops continued to dominate possession in the second period but the 60-year-old manager was clearly unsettled by the tempo of play from his players with the Italian marshalling orders at his team to show more intensity in attack.

Barkley robbed Billing of possession before driving at goal and thumping an effort wide. The Englishman was then involved again teeing up Hazard who emphatically bagged a brace to round past Lossl and stroke home into an empty net.

There were braces all-around twenty minutes from time when Higuain completed the rout following a magnificently curled strike from another Kante assist that saw the Argentine forward bend a perfectly curled shot into the top corner.   

Higuain was later denied the hat-trick by the leg of Schindler before Callum Hudson-Odoi was introduced for the first time following his failed transfer to Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga.

Chelsea have become a team hard to understand in recent months. They pick and choose their moments, saving their glorious best performances when the most flattering context suits them to their taste.

So the more things change, the more they actually stay the same. Until Higuain is given time to settle in his new role as the Blues attacking focal point. Until the questions surrounding Hazard’s fading Chelsea prospects are nailed on, it’s best to presume that Sarri’s managerial methods and philosophies are still but a working progress and the Italian boss should be given time. 

Of course, head-coaches - especially in England - have to be wise in front of the media and rants are rarely productive. Players, too, must operate within the regime of their manager or suffer the consequences of failing in their wrongdoings. 

But if such a point exists, then this was a situation which demanded something vehement. This was not a perfect performance nor a convincing one but Chelsea supporters can sit tight knowing that long-term answers were never going to solve themselves against a team already doomed to the prospect of Championship football next season.