More misery for doomed Aston Villa as Chelsea run riot
Little changed post-Remi Garde for Aston Villa as their inevitable relegation from the Barclays Premier League drew ever closer after a 4-0 home defeat to a much-changed Chelsea side.
It seems Villa's 29-year stay in the top flight will peter out with a whimper at some point this month, despite caretaker boss Eric Black's rallying call for the players to try to restore some respect in the shirt.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, debutant Alexandre Pato and two goals from Pedro inflicted a 22nd league loss on Villa, whose fans held up placards reading ``Proud History What Future?`` in protest at the club's dire predicament with 74 minutes on the clock to symbolise the club's formation in 1874.
Alan Hutton's late red card compounded Villa's afternoon, although he was applauded by some home fans as he made his way to the tunnel - presumably for showing some heart and fight.
For large parts of the game there was a slow and almost end-of-season feel to proceedings with both teams entering the home straight of hugely disappointing campaigns, although Chelsea did not need to reach top gear.
April 2015 saw Villa secure a place in the FA Cup final and all looked rosy for this season while Chelsea were in even better shape en route to the Premier League title. Almost 12 months on, however, Villa are destined for the Sky Bet Championship and defending champions Chelsea entered Easter contesting no silverware.
Both clubs will have a new manager next season and their players are playing for their futures, although while Garde was this week freed from the misery the anguish will continue for Villa fans until their relegation is confirmed. It will not be long now.
How much Chelsea want to qualify for the Europa League is up for debate and Guus Hiddink named an experimental side with Loftus-Cheek and Kenedy starting, as well as Loic Remy. Injuries to John Terry and Gary Cahill also saw young American Matt Miazga make his debut.
Chelsea controlled possession early on but almost at walking pace, without really threatening. Pedro went close after 11 minutes with a shot from the edge of the penalty area which narrowly missed the top corner and clipped the top of the net.
At the other end, Thibaut Courtois smothered a stinging low shot from Rudy Gestede.
Chelsea were forced into a change in the 23rd minute when Remy hobbled off. Pato came on. Three minutes later Loftus-Cheek steered home Cesar Azpilicueta's cut back from the right at the near post, with a flick off Joleon Lescott taking the ball past Brad Guzan.
Chelsea survived a scare just after the half-hour mark when Courtois parried a Carles Gil shot and the rebound against Jordan Ayew popped straight back into the big Belgian's hands.
Guzan did well to deny Baba Rahman from point-blank range but he was beaten by Pato in the final minute of the first half after Aly Cissokho had barged into the back of the Brazilian striker.
Less than a minute into the second half and Chelsea had a third. Pato and fellow substitute Oscar, on at half-time for Kenedy, combined down the left side of the penalty area and Pedro turned in Oscar's low cross from close range.
Pedro had his second of the game in the 59th minute. Pato was involved again. His curling shot was saved by Guzan but he did not get enough on it and Pedro clipped in the rebound from an acute angle inside the six-yard box.
Villa fans protested for the third home match running in the 74th minute, holding up their placards and singing ``You're not fit to wear the shirt.``
Hutton was shown a second yellow card after 85 minutes for a hard challenge on Loftus-Cheek.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Life can be cruel. Even the fixture list to the end of the season is laughing at Aston Villa #AVFC. H A H A H A" - BBC presenter Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker).
Brad Guzan: 4
Alan Hutton: 4
Micah Richards: 5
Joleon Lescott: 4
Aly Cissokho: 3
Carlos Sanchez: 3
Ashley Westwood: 4
Idrissa Gueye: 5
Carles Gil: 3
Rudy Gestede: 4
Jordan Ayew: 4
Jack Grealish (on for Gil, 66 mins): 5
Leandro Bacuna (on for Sanchez, 67 mins): 5
Thibaut Courtois: 6
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7
Branislav Ivanovic: 6
Matt Miazga: 6
Baba Rahman: 6
Cesc Fabregas: 7
Joh n Obi Mikel: 6
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 7
Loic Remy: 4
Alexandre Pato (on for Remy, 23 mins): 8
Oscar (on for Kenedy, 46 mins): 6
Jake Clarke-Salter (on for Pedro, 74 mins): 5
Pato: Had not kicked a ball in the Premier League since his January arrival until today and his introduction was greeted with chants from the Chelsea fans of ''we forgot that you were here.'' They will remember this performance, though. Okay the opposition was not up to much but he looked lively and had a hand in all three Chelsea goals scored while he was on the field.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Chelsea's third goal straight after half-time really was a lovely move. Made in Brazil and finished in Spain, substitutes Oscar and Pato exchanged passes down the left side of the penalty area and Oscar crossed the ball for Pedo to steer home past Guzan from close range.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Perhaps Eric Black waited too long to change things - his first sub did not come until the 66th minute by which time Villa were 4-0 down and buried. By contrast, Hiddink will have bneen pleased with how his experimental team acquitted themselves. Pato's debut was worth the wait and Loftus-Cheek should get more game time in the remaining matches based on this showing.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Where do you start? You have to feel for Villa fans. Misplaced passes, the dearth of creativity and quality and little goalmouth action to get them excited - and that has been the whole season, not just this match. Hutton's red card seemed to be appreciated by some Villa fans - odd.
Aston Villa v Bournemouth (April 9, Barclays Premier League)
Swansea v Chelsea (April 9, Barclays Premier League)
Aston Villa caretaker manager Eric Black conceded his players have a lot of work on their hands if they wish to win back the affection of their fans.
A poor performance from his players coupled with a ruthless Chelsea side saw the fans turn against the hosts at Villa Park, with placards reading ''Proud History What Future?'' held up throughout the match, and large sections of the crowd walking out before the final whistle.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, debutant Alexandre Pato and a brace from Pedro gave the visitors a 4-0 win while Alan Hutton was sent off late on for Villa in their first match since the departure of Remi Garde.
Black, who before the match had called for the players to restore some respect in the shirt, conceded after the game that he could have few complaints with the way things had gone.
He told BT Sport 1: "When the team is bottom of the league and has lost seven in a row and you've won only two all season, I can understand the disconnect with the supporters.
"That's something we have to live with. We have to ensure we give the supporters something, it's not the other way around. Something has to come back to the supporters because it's been a hard season for them."
The club has been shrouded in off-field issues this season, and Black admitted the club needed to rebuild.
He said: "What we have to do is stay strong as a club because the fans need to see some sort of effort. There was a certain amount of that but the quality lets us down.
"The club have to rebuild. The club has to come back and come to the stage where the only focus for the players is to play for Aston Villa, and from above then getting the club back to where it should be."