Gonzalo Higuain and Eden Hazard each scored twice as Chelsea claimed a 5-0 Premier League victory over Huddersfield to ease the pressure on head coach Maurizio Sarri.
On-loan Juventus striker Higuain, who enjoyed the best season of his career under Sarri at Napoli in 2015-16, struck after 16 minutes before curling in the fourth from 25 yards out.
Hazard, who has been singled out for criticism by the Blues boss, converted a penalty before half-time and netted his second after 66 minutes to take his season’s tally to 15.
Huddersfield were well beaten and conceded a late fifth, credited to David Luiz after a wicked deflection off Elias Kachunga.
This was to be no reality check for Sarri, who on Friday described himself as a “dreamer” and refused to compromise on his footballing principles, despite five losses in the prior 12 league games, including Wednesday’s humiliating 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth.
He may point to this result as justification, but Huddersfield – in Jan Siewert’s second game since he replaced David Wagner as boss – were ideal opponents and appear destined to return to the Championship.
Chelsea face a pivotal month which could determine the future of Sarri under owner Roman Abramovich, who is not renowned for his patience.
Next Sunday the Blues go to Manchester City, their opponents in the February 24 Carabao Cup final.
The Wembley date comes at the end of a week which sees the visits of Manchester United, in the FA Cup fifth round, and Malmo in the Europa League.
Defeats at Arsenal and Bournemouth – Chelsea’s worst league loss since September 1996 – saw Sarri’s position under scrutiny.
Not since the final throes of Jose Mourinho’s second spell in November 2015 had Chelsea lost three Premier League games in a row.
It always appeared unlikely Huddersfield, beaten 3-0 by the Blues on the opening day, would add to Chelsea’s woes.
The Terriers clinched survival here last May with a battling draw, but they were open at the back and unable to fully capitalise on Chelsea’s defensive deficiencies.
The visitors might have led after six minutes, though. Chris Lowe’s cross was headed just over by Aaron Mooy, but that was as good as it got for Town.
The Blues were finding openings and took the lead through Higuain.
N’Golo Kante has dutifully gone about the right midfield role Sarri has assigned him, and showed his improvement by feeding Higuain with a pass with the outside of his right boot. Higuain showed his class to bury the ball into the roof of the net.
Sarri admitted the Argentina striker must find form quickly or else it could be too late – for both of them.
Higuain showed he is getting into his stride by finding the side-netting soon afterwards.
Luiz sent a free header from Willian’s corner wide as Chelsea again spurned the chance of a second goal.
An ankle injury accounted for Isaac Mbenza, with Steve Mounie coming on, but Town still troubled Chelsea, particularly Adama Diakhaby down the right.
Chelsea were awarded a soft penalty when Kachunga leaned on Cesar Azpilicueta on the edge of the area.
The contact had been initiated outside the box, but it mattered little as Hazard converted.
Hazard wanted a second spot-kick after he was challenged by Christopher Schindler moments later but his appeals were dismissed.
Sarri again appeared frustrated by the Blues’ failure to kill off the Terriers early in the second half, but two goals in four minutes eased his concerns.
Ross Barkley brilliantly fed Hazard, who rounded Jonas Lossl and tucked in.
A fourth followed. Hazard cut in from the left, fed Kante, who ignored the return and instead laid the ball off for Higuain to find the top corner from 25 yards.
Luiz added the gloss with a fifth when he met a Willian corner and his header was diverted away from Lossl and deflected in by Kachunga.
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