Chelsea proved they can cope without their injured strikers as Mason Mount’s hat-trick powered the Premier League leaders in their 7-0 demolition of Norwich on Saturday.
Thomas Tuchel’s side were rocked when Romelu Lukaku sustained an ankle injury and Timo Werner suffered a hamstring problem in the midweek Champions League victory against Malmo.
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Despite the absence of their main forwards, Chelsea tore apart bottom of the table Norwich at Stamford Bridge to move four points clear at the top.
Mount started the rout with his first goal since May, ending a run of 15 scoreless club appearances for the 22-year-old.
Callum Hudson-Odoi ended an even longer goal drought when he grabbed his first league goal since January.
Reece James increased Chelsea’s lead, becoming the third English graduate of the club’s youth academy on the scoresheet.
Ben Chilwell netted the fourth and Max Aarons scored an own goal as the barrage continued.
Mount struck again from the spot and hit his third in the final seconds as Chelsea recorded their biggest win since Tuchel arrived in January.
Woeful Norwich had Ben Gibson sent off in the second half for two bookings.
Chelsea have now won their last four games in all competitions, erasing the damage done by successive defeats against Manchester City and Juventus before the international break.
The Blues’ cruise puts a little extra pressure on second placed Liverpool ahead of their trip to bitter rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
Chelsea, chasing their first English title since 2017, have a chance to extend their lead as their next two league fixtures are against lowly Newcastle and Burnley.
During his spell in charge at Dortmund, Tuchel employed Norwich boss Daniel Farke as the club’s Under-23 coach and the pair remain good friends.
They exchanged a warm hug on the touchline ahead of their first meeting as managers.
That was all the hospitality Tuchel would show to Farke as Chelsea embarrassed the winless Canaries.
Chelsea hot streak
Mount had vowed to get back on the scoreline to help Chelsea cope with their injury problems and the England midfielder was true to his word.
Norwich failed to clear Hudson-Odoi’s cross and Jorginho flicked the ball to Mount, who unleashed a fierce low drive that flashed past Tim Krul from the edge of the area.
Chelsea were in complete control and Hudson-Odoi doubled their lead in the 18th minute.
Mateo Kovacic’s pin-point pass caught Norwich flat-footed as they tried to play for offside and Hudson-Odoi sprinted in behind, advancing into the penalty area to plant a cool finish into the far corner.
Quicker in thought and deed than Norwich, Tuchel’s men conjured a sublime third goal in the 42nd minute.
In a flash, Jorginho switched play from left to right and Mount guided a perfectly-weighted pass towards James, who burst into the area and clipped a deft finish over the on-rushing Krul.
Chilwell extended his unexpected hot streak in front of goal after 57 minutes.
Teed up by Kovacic’s pass, the left-back smashed a superb strike into the far corner from 18 yards, making it three goals in his last three league games.
There was no let-up from Chelsea and Hudson-Odoi’s cross deflected off Aarons, catching Krul off guard as it trickled into the net in the 62nd minute.
Gibson was dismissed for his crude lunge on James three minutes later as Norwich’s misery deepened.
Mount got his second in the 85th minute after Mathias Normann conceded a penalty when he handled Antonio Rudiger’s shot.
Mount’s spot-kick was saved by Krul, but it had to be retaken as the keeper had moved off his line too early and the midfielder made no mistake with his second effort.
There was still time for Mount to complete his treble in stoppage-time when he tapped in from Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s pass. (AFP)