MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 8 ASTON VILLA 0
Christmas came slightly early at the Bridge as the Blues turned on the style, especially in the second half of this one-sided encounter.
Seven scorers supplied the eight goals with Fernando Torres setting the team on its way with a fine early header. David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic made it 3-0 by the break and after the interval Frank Lampard scored his 130th Chelsea top-flight league goal to set a new club record.
Substitutes Ramires, with two, and Oscar, also found the net, as did Eden Hazard, and we also had the luxury of one missed penalty. At the other end Petr Cech kept a clean sheet with a superb save on to the crossbar.
David Luiz lined up in midfield for a second time in a Chelsea shirt. Lampard also started and captained the side. The three midfielders ahead and the striker were the same as the Club World Cup final - so Victor Moses, Juan Mata and Hazard lined up behind Torres.
Aston Villa, seeking consecutive Premier League wins for the first time in 56 matches, were unchanged from their victory at Anfield.
With Chelsea looking to build on the win at Sunderland in our last league game, and the cup victory at Leeds in our most recent outing, the first 45 minutes couldn't have gone a lot better.
Petr Cech was a near spectator throughout and in attack, although we didn't create the bucket-load of chances in the first period that we saw in the second, we took a good percentage of those that did come our way before the break.
Lampard, making the 500th Premier League start of his career, had the chance to test Brad Guzan very early on after Torres had been illegally impeded when the ball was played forward for the first time.
That free-kick was drilled in to the wall but the lively pre-Christmas crowd did not have to wait long for something to celebrate. The Villa marking was not tight as Azpilicueta sent a cross over with just two minutes on the clock but Torres was still a good 15 yards out as he met the ball. The header was worthy of Kerry Dixon in his pomp and found the top corner of the Shed End net with the Villa keeper's arms flailing.
The next opportunity did take a while coming. Moses won a corner with some direct running but that only resulted in a Villa break that was dealt with comfortably enough once it reached our half.
David Luiz and Mata cut through the Villa defence with an exchange of passes with 18 minutes played but the Spaniard was loose with his touch and lost the chance to shoot. Moses picked up the pieces but no one could apply a touch to his pacy cross.
Midway through the half there was a Chelsea shout for a penalty after Baker draped an arm over the front of Torres as Cole chipped the ball towards the centre-forward, but Phil Dowd played on.
The ref was more accommodating when Hazard was chopped to the turf by Herd just five yards outside the Villa area. Lampard was again one of the players lining up behind the free-kick but this time David Luiz off quite a short run-up tried his luck. The strike was perfect and the Blues were 2-0 up with 28 minutes played.
A set piece was Villa's undoing again five minutes later, this time a corner. It fell to the feet of Cahill who turned sharply and shot. Guzan did very well to keep that effort out, especially as it took a deflection, but he was grounded as Ivanovic pounced to head home from a few yards out.
Villa's reshaped three-man defence had been credited with playing a major part in their recent revival in results but today they looked full of errors. Passes out from the back were going astray and men were left unmarked. David Luiz tried to make it 4-0 before the break with a dig from distance but Guzan was able to pouch it.
It took a very impressive save from Guzan four minutes after the restart to keep out a fourth Chelsea goal. This time he tipped over Mata's shot with next to no time to react after Moses's cross, intended for Torres, had deflected into the path of our no.10.
The keeper had an easier job in catching Lampard's bouncing half-volley soon after but the Chelsea one- and two-touch moves were beginning to flow. Moses and Mata had the crowd purring with one combination but Torres couldn't reach the cross at the first time of asking, and was offside when he did put the ball in the net moments later.
Moses should have scored when put through by Hazard but Lampard did find the net in trademark style with 58 minutes played. Given room over 30 yards out, never advisable, he struck his shot low and it bent away from Guzan into the bottom corner.
Lampard had his 190th Chelsea goal and was replaced by Ramires two minutes later to a huge and heartfelt ovation from the Stamford Bridge crowd.
The chances continued to flow - Hazard blasting one over - but then, on 62 minutes, Cech was at last asked to do something - and what a contribution it was! Weimann looked certain to score but his powerful shot was deflected up onto the crossbar by our keeper to the congratulations of the defence who wanted a clean sheet just as much he did.
Guzan clawed out Azpilicueta's shot that was creeping inside the near post and then Oscar, on for Torres, pulled his first shot across the face of goal with Villa exposed by Ramires's pass.
The substitutes were taking over and Oscar was fouled by the clumsiest of challenges from Herd with Dowd not hesitating in giving the penalty. Oscar rather than David Luiz took it; he aimed high and found the net.
Hazard's goal which made it 7-0 was the individual effort of the game - his close control leaving Villa chasing shadows before he rifled it into the far top corner.
Villa were left to pray for the final whistle but before it blew Chelsea both missed a penalty and scored the eighth to equal our best top-flight win.
Piazon was the player fouled for the spot-kick and keeping up the pattern of letting the same player take it, the 18-year-old had the chance for his first Chelsea goal but Guzan saved.
Ramires made no mistake with a carefully placed shot when Oscar attacked the ragged West Midlanders' defence yet again and slipped the ball to his compatriot.
In one fell swoop, Chelsea had drawn level with Manchester City and Manchester United's goal-difference totals. We now trail United at the top by 11 points with a game in hand and City by seven, also with a game in hand.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilcueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; David Luiz, Lampard (c) (Ramires 60); Moses, Mata (Piazon 74), Hazard; Torres (Oscar 67).
Unused subs Turnbull, Ferreira, Ake, Marin.
Scorers Torres 2, David Luiz 28, Ivanovic 34, Lampard 58, Ramires 75, 90+1, Oscar pen 78, Hazard 83.
Aston Villa (3-5-2): Guzan; Herd, Clark (c), Baker; Lowton, Westwood (Ireland 56), Holman (Bowery 79), Bannan, Lichaj (Bennett 56); Weimann, Benteke.
Unused subs Given, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph.
Referee Phil Dowd.