BY PAUL LAGAN
Ruben Loftus-Cheek crashed home a hat-trick as Chelsea cruised to a 3-1 win and three Europa League points against BATE Borisov from Belarus at Stamford Bridge tonight.
The Lewisham-born England midfielder, was imperious as he dominated the midfield, setting up attacks, closing others down and nabbing three goals in the process. It was his first goal for the Blues since a strike in April 2016 against Aston Villa.
He has scored twice on loan at Crystal Palace.
However there is every chance he will be relegated either to the bench for the visit to Burnley at the weekend in the Premier League or even out of the squad entirely as head coach Maurizio Sarri reverts to Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in the middle of the park.
This is the situation, that Loftus-Cheek, one of England’s finest players of his generation is facing, and why, come January, he may insist on a move away from Stamford Bridge.
The desire to cement his place in the England squad is predicated on regular first team football at the elite level – either at home or abroad.
This was as easy as it gets in terms of outclassing an opposition, and with their first attack, they scored – Ruben Loftus-Cheek smashed home after two minutes. His fierce right-footer from 10 yards out was perfectly teed up by David Zappacosta on the right, giving BATE goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski no chance.
The England midfielder, overlooked fo so long by Maurizio Sarri this season, doubled the home side’s lead six minutes later, tucking home, again from close range.
Andreas Christensen should have made it three on 14 minutes but he failed to slide home at the far post after Gary Cahill had knocked on William’s corner.
Loftus-Cheek dipped a low header just wide of the BATE goal on 39 minutes as he went in search of his hat-trick.
But with just eight minutes after the restart, the boy from South London set the crowd into delirium with a beautifully struck cushioned right footer from just outside the BATE penalty area, that inched past Scherbitski.
With the three points assured, Sarri opted to bring on Victor Moses for Willian on 56 minutes.
He was quickly followed by Calum Hudson-Odoi, on for Pedro.
Scherbitski produced a superb save to thwart luckless Oliver Giroud.
Sarri’s third substitution saw Kante replace Mateo Kovacic.
Chelsea’s inability to snuff out a simple free-kick allowed Aleksei Rios to volley home a deep free-kick with 10 minutes left.
It gave the score a semblance of respectability.
Chelsea are top of Group L with maximum points from three game.
Teams: Arrizabalaga, Zappacosta, Cahill, Christensen, Emerson, Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Giroud, Willian, Pedro
Subs: Caballero, Rudiger, Kante, Barkley, Moses, Hudson-Odoi, Morata
BATE Borisov: Scherbitski, Filipovic, Dragun, Hleb, Signevich, Skavysh, Rios, Filipenkp, Stasevich, Baga, Volodko
Subs: Chichkan, Yablonski, Berezkin, Ivanic, Volkov, Tuominen, Moukam