Monday 21 May 2018

Pato's dream debut helps twist knife in Villa nightmare

Aston Villa 0-4 Chelsea

Alexandre Pato celebrates his goal. Photo: PA
Alexandre Pato celebrates his goal. Photo: PA
Alan Hutton of Aston Villa is shown a red card by referee Neil Swarbrick. Photo: Getty
Pedro scores the fourth goal for Aston Villa. Photo: Reuters
Aston Villa fans hold up 'Proud History, What Future?' signs during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park. Photo: PA

Jon Culley

Aston Villa looked suspiciously like a team that had given up as they surrendered meekly to a seventh consecutive defeat, allowing an experimental Chelsea team to toy with them before being booed off the field by angry supporters.

Chelsea gave Brazilian striker Alexandre Pato his debut, and the former AC Milan star responded by playing a part in all four goals - including one of his own from the penalty spot. He came on after French striker Loic Remy suffered a groin injury, and scored his first Chelsea goal in first-half stoppage time, converting from the spot after being hauled down by Aly Cissokho.

Pato's first touch played a part in the move that led to Chelsea's opening goal, converted by Rubens Loftus-Cheek from a Cesar Azpilicueta cross after 26 minutes, and he was involved in the build-up on both occasions when Pedro scored twice early in the second half to end any hope of a Villa recovery.

Signed on loan from Corinthians in January, Pato had been forced to wait 64 days to make his first appearance, with Guus Hiddink explaining he wanted to ensure the striker was fit enough.

"The expectation was he would have come in sooner, but we had to get his condition right, to put him through a pre-season before he could show his quality on the field," the Dutch coach said. "It was not the toughest game, but it was good to see him on the field."

Villa, who ended with 10 men after Alan Hutton was sent off for a second yellow card, had to cope with increasing hostility from their fans, who held up protest placards in the 74th minute - 1874 being the year the club was founded - then folded them into paper aeroplanes to throw on to the pitch.

It was a difficult atmosphere for Eric Black to step into as caretaker manager following Remi Garde's dismissal last week, but the Scot was not especially sympathetic with his players, who are no more than two more defeats away from their relegation being confirmed.

"It was not overly enjoyable, but I can fully understand the way the fans are feeling," Black said. "They are professional players and they are paid to take responsibility for their performances. The club needs to be taken and shaken. The only way to win back support is with what happens on the field."

Hiddink felt the result was assured after Pato's penalty made it 2-0, but a third goal came just 51 seconds after the restart, set up for Pedro by half-time substitute Oscar with a low cross after he combined with Pato on the left. The two Brazilians linked up again after 59 minutes before Pato tested Guzan with a shot from the left that the goalkeeper saved, but only by pushing it into the path of Pedro, who easily put away his sixth goal of the Premier League season.

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