Chelsea made a perfect return to league play following its FIFA Club World Cup disappointment with a sensational 8-0 home win over Aston Villa to move back into the Premier League top four.
Fernando Torres gave Rafael Benitez’s men a flying start with a stunning third-minute header before a David Luiz free kick and Branislav Ivanovic header made sure the points were safe before halftime.
Two goals from Ramirez and strikes from Frank Lampard, Oscar and Eden Hazard completed the emphatic scoreline after the break as the Blues matched their best-ever Premier League result to move up to third in the table.
The biggest roar of the day as Chelsea brushed away a feeble Villa side was reserved for Lampard, who celebrated his 500th Premier League start with a wonderful goal struck from 30 yards out in the 59th minute.
The midfielder’s contract expires at the end of the season, and the Chelsea crowd made their feelings clear to owner Roman Abramovich, singing ‘sign him up’ after Lampard overtook Bobby Tambling's club record of 129 league goals.
Chelsea got off the mark with Torres' header, which came off a whipped-in cross from right back Cesar Azpilcueta for his seventh league goal of the campaign.
The goal immediately settled any nerves around the stadium, and in the 29th minute the Blues were given a two-goal cushion. Villa defender Chris Herd brought down Hazard 25 yards from goal and Luiz stepped up to slam an unstoppable, dipping free kick over the wall and into the top corner from 25 yards.
Six minutes later, the result was put beyond doubt as the Villa defense fell asleep from a corner. Gary Cahill was allowed to turn and shoot in the box, and after a brilliant save from Brad Guzan, Ivanovic was quickest to react as he nodded home a simple header.
The Blues continued to press after the break and could have scored far more were it not for heroics from Guzan in the Chelsea goal, with the Villa keeper denying Juan Mata and Victor Moses with superb saves.
He could do nothing, however, about Chelsea’s fourth in the 59th minute. It was classic Lampard, a drilled half-volley from 30 yards that skipped off the turf and planted in the bottom corner of the Villa net. At the other end, Petr Cech was a virtual spectator in the Chelsea goal but kept his concentration to divert Andreas Weimann’s shot on to the crossbar.
Chelsea’s pressure, though, was relentless. Fifteen minutes from time, substitute Lucas Piazon slipped in Ramires, who drilled his finish through Guzan’s legs.
Four minutes later, referee Phil Dowd awarded a penalty after Herd brought down Oscar in the box. The Brazilian playmaker stepped up himself to sweep the spot kick into the top corner.
Seven minutes from time, Hazard added the seventh with a sensational finish into the top corner from 10 yards.
Two minutes from time, Piazon missed the opportunity to make it eight with another penalty as his spot kick was saved by Guzan. Ramires soon added the final touch, though, with a placed finish from the edge of the box.