Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a hat-trick as Chelsea earned an emphatic 3-1 win over BATE Borisov in the Europa League on Thursday.
Though Maurizio Sarri had his sight on a win, he took chances with the youngsters, giving Emerson, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek a rare start, but that did not hold Chelsea back, who went ahead within just two minutes.
Loftus-Check was making just his second start under new boss Sarri, and he took advantage of Davide Zappacosta’s excellent work down the right, sweeping the Italian’s cutback across the ‘keeper to set his side on the way to an easy victory.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek's hat-trick show also earned him the Man-of-the-Match award
The England midfielder had his second six minutes later when he flicked a corner from Willian around his marker an into the net, with Olivier Giroud initially claiming the goal after striking his team mate’s foot at the moment of contact.
Just before the end of the second time, Alexandr Hleb – back with BATE Borisov for the fifth spell of his career – briefly left the pitch suffering with an injury, with little sympathy for the ex-Arsenal man from the partisan home crowd.
Loftus-Check secured his hat-trick soon after the restart when Pedro drove at goal from the left wing, was tackled in the penalty box, and the 22-year-old quickly seized the loose ball, whipping it into the far corner.
With the game won, 17 year old Callum Hudson-Odoi was introduced in place of Pedro on the wing, giving him the chance to experience European football with little of the usual pressure.
While the youngsters excelled, the experienced and older Giroud struggled to make his mark, coming close when he hooked a well-struck volley down the middle.
Sarri’s face betrayed a look of disgust when BATE grabbed a late consolation goal, after Alexei Rios ran unmarked into the box to sidefoot home a cross. But by then it was too little, too late.
Chelsea’s victory sees them go six clear at the top of the table, with three more games to play.