LONDON, September 12: Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku scored at Stamford Bridge for the first time as his double sealed a 3-0 win against Aston Villa on Saturday.
After scoring on his second Chelsea debut in the win at Arsenal in August, Lukaku made it three goals from three appearances with a pair of predatory strikes.
Lukaku, who previously played for Chelsea from 2011 to 2014, is back with the Blues following his club record £98 million ($135 million) move from Inter Milan in the close-season.
The 28-year-old had never netted in front of Chelsea’s home fans before, but he ended that drought in the first half to the delight of the 40,000 capacity crowd.
Mateo Kovacic scored Chelsea’s second goal and Lukaku struck again in the final moments as the European champions made it three wins from their first four league games.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are second in the Premier League, behind leaders Manchester United on goals scored.
Chelsea are only the second club, after Manchester United, to win 600 Premier League games.
Saul Niguez made his Chelsea debut after his deadline day move from Atletico Madrid as Tuchel made six changes from the 1-1 draw at Liverpool before the international break.
There were rare starts for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech, while Marcos Alonso captained the Blues for the first time.
Despite the much-changed line-up, Chelsea made a vibrant start.
Tuchel’s men were inches away from an early goal when a corner was cleared off the line by Ezri Konsa, with the ball rebounding to safety via the crossbar.
They didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring as Lukaku struck in the 15th minute.
Kovacic played a superb through-ball towards Lukaku and sprinted into the Villa area, turned inside Axel Tuanzebe and drilled a fine low finish past Jed Steer.
Ten years after he first played there, former Manchester United and Everton star Lukaku had his maiden Stamford Bridge goal in his 15th appearance for all his clubs at the stadium.
He made the most of the moment with a prolonged celebration in front of the Chelsea fans.
Ollie Watkins almost grabbed an immediate equaliser for Villa as his low drive was pushed away for a corner by Edouard Mendy.
Watkins was denied again when he tried to jink around Mendy, only for Thiago Silva to slide in and block the goalbound shot with his chest.
With Chelsea suddenly vulnerable and Saul looking out of his depth in his first taste of the Premier League, Mendy was all that stood between Villa and an equaliser.
He repelled Tyrone Mings’ stinging strike, then recovered to brilliantly save Konsa’s close-range effort from the rebound.
Jacob Ramsey was next to be frustrated by yet another agile Mendy stop just before the interval.
Tuchel responded to the Villa blitz by ending Saul’s underwhelming debut after just 45 minutes, with the Spanish midfielder replaced by Jorginho.
Chelsea were back in control within four minutes of the restart thanks to a blunder from Mings.
Under pressure from Kovacic, the Villa defender played an under-hit backpass that the Croatian seized on before gleefully shooting into the far corner from 12 yards.
Kovacic’s first league goal since 2019 was almost followed by another when the midfielder curled just wide from the edge of the area.
That put Chelsea on cruise control as they conserved energy ahead of their Champions League opener against Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday.
Lukaku rounded off a memorable personal evening deep into stoppage-time when he lashed past Steer from just inside the area. (AFP)