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Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012

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Getting up: Chelsea's David Luiz (right) vies for the ball against Villa's Christian Benteke on Sunday. Chelsea won 8-0. AP

Chelsea explodes in eight-goal romp over Aston Villa


LONDON — Chelsea produced its most ruthless attacking display in more than two years on Sunday to crush Aston Villa with a record-equaling 8-0 win while Premier League-leader Manchester United dropped points in the title race with a 1-1 draw at Swansea.

The European champions ripped Villa apart with ease after Fernando Torres headed in the opener after just three minutes, with seven different goal scorers.

A first league win at Stamford Bridge since early October lifted Chelsea up to third place, seven points behind second-place Manchester City but with a game in hand.

"We showed great appetite for the game from the first minute," said Frank Lampard, who also scored. "(With) our desire to be quick with the ball, the early goal helped. We are enjoying playing again and we needed that attitude to get us out of the sticky patch we were in."

But it is the margin of the one-sided rout that will be most pleasing for Rafael Benitez, who now has two league wins in the five games since being hired to replace the fired Roberto Di Matteo despite the hostility of Chelsea fans.

"To win is special, but the main thing for me is to see the team progressing, improving," said Benitez, who was appointed until the end of the season.

The victory matched Chelsea's record rout of Wigan in May 2010, and maintained the team's revival since Benitez took charge last month.

"We are enjoying playing again and we needed that attitude to get us out of the sticky patch we were in," Lampard said.

But Chelsea is seven points behind City and 11 adrift of United in its search for a first Premier League title since 2010.

United's run of five consecutive league wins was brought to a halt in south Wales when Michu canceled out Patrice Evra's opener for the visitors.

The game ended in acrimony, with United manager Alex Ferguson saying Swansea captain Ashley Williams "could have killed" striker Robin van Persie with a clearance.

Evra put United ahead after 16 minutes, glancing a header past Michel Vorm after latching onto Van Persie's cross.

Although Jonathan de Guzman had an equalizer ruled out, Michu's goal was given in the 29th, tapping into the net after David de Gea parried an initial attempt from De Guzman.

Tempers flared late in the game after Williams cleared the ball directly onto Van Persie's head while the striker was on the ground. Van Persie squared up to Williams and both players were booked.

"The Van Persie situation you can clearly see that he could have been killed," Ferguson said.

"He (Williams) should be banned for a long time because that was the most dangerous thing I've seen on a football field for many years. It was absolutely deliberate," Ferguson added. "The whistle has gone, the game has stopped and he has done that right in front of the referee."

The day's other match was so one-sided that even with two penalties being awarded to Chelsea there was no hint of acrimony, with no one booked.

Chelsea was rampant from the start, with Torres taking just three minutes to meet fellow Spaniard Cesar Azpilicueta's precise cross from the right flank with a header that beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Chelsea went further ahead on the half-hour when David Luiz curled a free kick into the top corner and Ivanovic headed home four minutes later after Guzan parried Gary Cahill's shot.

Chelsea's fourth was a landmark goal for Lampard, who stabbed the ball into the net from distance to net his 130th topflight goal for the club, surpassing Bobby Tambling's record set between 1959 and 1970.

"I'm very proud of that goals record, to beat a great man such as Bobby who is an absolute legend and a lovely bloke, it means everything," said Lampard, who joined Chelsea from West Ham in 2001.

"Coming across London is not always easy but (the fans) have supported me."

Lampard's future, though, remains in doubt with the 34-year-old midfielder's contract expiring at the end of the season. He has been linked with a move to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"I love playing here," he said. "I'm pleased to be fit and I will keep trying to enjoy my football. I believe I have a lot in me to go. I don't want to get too deep. The club's position is their position. I'm here to play football to show people what I can do."

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