Ruben Loftus-Cheek hit a brilliant hat-trick as Chelsea coasted to victory in a one-sided Europa League game against Belarusian champions Bate Borisov.
The Blues, inspired by their England midfielder, were far too strong for their opponents, stretching their lead at the top of Group L to six points with three games to play.
Loftus-Cheek swept Maurizio Sarri’s side ahead with just one minute and 42 seconds on the clock after being picked out by Davide Zappacosta’s low cross.
The 22-year-old doubled the lead with a side-foot volley from Willian’s corner and sealed his first competitive hat-trick with a sumptuous 20-yard finish before Aleksei Rios scored a consolation.
Bate goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski produced sublime saves to keep out Zappacosta and Olivier Giroud as Chelsea dominated from start to finish.
Can Loftus-Cheek force his way into the side?
This was only Loftus-Cheek’s fourth Chelsea appearance of the season – as many games as he played for his country at the World Cup in Russia during the summer.
He grasped the opportunity with both hands after Sarri made eight changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw with Manchester United last Saturday.
Having scored Chelsea’s first hat-trick in Europe since Didier Drogba in 2006, Loftus-Cheek will hope he can now force his way into Sarri’s Premier League side.
He has been limited to just 33 minutes of top-flight action since the Italian took charge in the summer.
In contrast, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho have played every minute of every league game, while Mateo Kovacic has managed 476 minutes.
Meanwhile, Ross Barkley has clocked up more than 300 minutes in the engine room this season, earning himself an England recall.
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With Chelsea making an unbeaten start under Sarri, Loftus-Cheek could well have to remain patient or consider another loan move in the January transfer window after impressing at Crystal Palace last season.
There certainly won’t be a lack of interest should the Blues’ boss sanction a temporary switch – especially after this highly impressive performance.
Chelsea face two Premier League games – away to Burnley and home to Crystal Palace – and a Carabao Cup tie against Frank Lampard’s Derby County before travelling to Belarus for the return match against Bate Borisov on 8 November (17:55 GMT).
More to follow.
Source BBC News