Fernando Torres announced his return to form with a superb display in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on Saturday, as Roberto Di Matteo’s side cemented their position on top of the Premier League.
Torres struck his second goal of the season on the stroke of half-time after earlier winning a penalty that Eden Hazard converted as the European champions made it three successive wins.
Hazard also maintained his superb start to the season with his first goal for the club and a clever assist for the Torres strike.
But it was the quality of Torres’s goal, together with his all-round display, that took the spotlight and suggested the Spaniard’s troubled first 18 months in west London could soon be a distant memory as he steps out of Didier Drogba’s shadow following the Ivorian’s move to China.
Chelsea presented new signings Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta to the home crowd to add to the upbeat mood before kick-off at Stamford Bridge.
The pair cost a combined fee of around $25.3-million, taking the club’s expenditure to over $126-million since the end of last season -- a powerful statement of intent coming on the back of their Champions League triumph last May.
Hazard has so far been the Blues’ stand-out performer, confirming why the club paid $50-million to Lille with his displays in the opening games of the campaign.
And he was the most eye-catching player on the pitch again in a one-sided first half during which Newcastle never threatened to stage a repeat of their victory over the Blues in May.
Chelsea had been unconvincing for long periods in the 4-2 mid-week win over Reading that turned on a controversial Torres strike.
But they looked far more composed against a visiting side who had opened their league campaign with a home victory over Tottenham Hotspur seven days previously.
In between, Newcastle had travelled to Greece, where a team made up largely of fringe players recorded a 1-1 draw against Atromitos in the Europa League.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew made nine changes to the side that started on Thursday, but his team still looked lethargic in comparison to Chelsea.
Hazard darted around impressively and his turn and shot in the 14th minute created the first chance of the game.
Torres also looked sharp and his lay-off to Ryan Bertrand four minutes later allowed the midfielder to test visiting goalkeeper Tim Krul once more.
Then, in the 21st minute, Torres burst sharply into the Newcastle area, where his run was halted by a clumsy trip by Vurnon Anita.
The penalty was never in doubt and with Frank Lampard among the substitutes, Hazard took responsibility, drilling the ball inside the left-hand post for the opening goal.
Newcastle offered little by way of response, while Chelsea’s precise movement up front created a succession of openings.
Papiss Demba Cisse finally produced an effort on target for the visitors shortly before the break when he turned and shot straight at Petr Cech from just 12 yards.
But Torres demonstrated a much more ruthless approach to finishing moments later when he doubled the lead in added time.
A neat exchange of passes with Hazard took the Spain striker into the Newcastle area, where he produced a first-time effort with the outside of his right foot that curled into the top-right corner.
Newcastle started the second period with much more purpose, with Hatem Ben Arfa sending a left-foot, angled shot narrowly wide.
But they failed to get a foothold in the game and when Cisse fluffed a late chance, it was clear there would be no way back.