Only five days after a dramatic defeat at the London Stadium, Mauricio Pochettino would be hoping for his first victory as Chelsea boss at home to Luton Town. The Blues have not won at Stamford Bridge in more than nine matches across all competitions, so would be looking to buck the trend against their newly-promoted opponents.
For the visitors, it is nights like these that their fans would have been dreaming of ever since they secured promotion back to the top flight last May, with their penalty shoot-out triumph over Coventry City in the Championship Playofff Final. A familiar face will return to SW19 in the Luton squad, with new midfield signing Ross Barkley making his debut for the Hatters. The Liverpudlian spent four seasons at Chelsea before departing for Nice at the beginning of the last campaign.
CHE: Sanchez; Disasi, Silva, Colwill; Gusto, Caicedo, Fernandez, Chilwell; Gallagher, Sterling; Jackson.
LUT: Kaminski; Burke, Lockyer, Bell; Kabore, Barkley, Nakamba, Chong, Giles; Morris, Adebayo.
As the game kicked off, Chelsea dominated the opening stages, which should be expected from any team playing at home, but Luton looked solid and organised off the ball. For all the possession that the home team had accrued, they were still confined to half-chances and long shots on goal, with the only meaningful attempt coming from Raheem Sterling, who had a thunderous volley saved expertly by Kaminski.
In the same vain as their previous match against West Ham, the execution in the final third for the West London side was lacking. A defence-splitting pass from Levi Colwill in the 14th minute played Nicolas Jackson in behind, and the centre-forward produced a clever flick on to the marauding Ben Chilwell who laid the ball off to Enzo Fernandez, only for the Argentine to blaze his shot over the bar, proving a perfect example of the lack of composure in front of goal for the Blues.
It seemed it would take a moment of genius for the deadlock to be broken and with 18 minutes gone, Sterling was the man to provide it. With an excellent mazy run into the box, the pacy winger was able to cut inside five Luton defenders and slot the ball in the far corner.
An expertly taken finish created in a way that seemed reminiscent of a certain Eden Hazard – demonstrating the level of flair and individual brilliance that has been lacking in this Chelsea team since the Belgian’s departure, but certainly something that Sterling is capable of providing when he is in top form.
There seemed a sense of relief amongst the crowd, seeing Chelsea take the lead for the first time this season, but Pochettino’s men still looked nervy whenever Luton looked to counter. On a couple of occasions, it took some excellent defending from Colwill and Thiago Silva to keep Luton from creating any meaningful and clear-cut chances.
The second half saw the Blues starting brightly with some excellent opportunities for them to double their lead. The most prominent chance came in the 49th minute, with Ben Chillwell played through into the penalty area, only for the wing-back to inexplicably play the extra pass when an attempt on goal seemed the much more apt choice.
It was clear that the home side’s best form of defence remained to be a constant attack, but Luton seemed buoyant from Chelsea’s inability to extend the scoreline, even with this increased tempo going forward. Their fans responded in kind, rallying the Hatters to their first effort on target in the 59th minute from Ryan Giles, forcing a smart save from Sanchez.
The match became much more open as the half wore on – an outcome that certainly favoured the home side, and ultimately resulted in Chelsea’s second goal. Sterling would once again put the ball in the net in the 67th minute to round off an excellent passage of play. Malo Gusto’s second assist of the game capped off a solid performance for the young Frenchman, and will give Chelsea fans confidence in his ability to fill the spot in the starting eleven left by Reece James’ long-term injury.
Luton made a number of substitutions but started to become overrun in midfield and it didn’t take long for the match to be well and truly wrapped up. Sterling would be the provider on this occasion, finding the tireless Nicolas Jackson at the back post to score his first goal for the club and give the home side a 3-0 victory.
Chelsea had not scored three goals in a match at Stamford Bridge since October of last year, and Pochettino will be hoping that his attacking players will now be brimming with confidence for the season ahead off the back of this result. There will certainly be easier games for Luton this season from their remaining 36 fixtures in the Premier League, but both clubs will now turn their attentions to the Carabao Cup, with home fixtures next week against AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham respectively.