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Romelu Lukaku hit a vital winner to earn Chelsea a 3-1 victory away to Aston Villa on Boxing Day.

Thomas Tuchel went into the game with Lukaku remaining on the bench despite his return from Covid-19, while Callum Hudson-Odoi was deemed fit to start.

The Blues lacked substance up front for much of the game and the defences were on top in the early exchanges before errors put both teams on the board.

Reece James flicked Matt Targett’s cross beyond his own goalkeeper to open the scoring, and yet Chelsea were handed a lifeline within minutes.

Matty Cash lunged in on Callum Hudson-Odoi, which allowed Jorginho to roll his eighth goal of the season home – despite Emiliano Martinez’s antics that earned the goalkeeper a booking before the penalty was taken.

It was telling that the only first-half shot on target mustered by both sides had come via the spot-kick, and Tuchel threw Lukaku on with Trevoh Chalobah coming off and Christian Pulisic saved from his central-striker purgatory by being moved out wide.

The £97.5million man immediately made his presence known and suddenly Chelsea had an outlet, which Hudson-Odoi picked out in the 56th minute with a sweet cross that gave Lukaku enough to work with.

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A drop of the shoulder to beat Tyrone Mings, a fantastic leap to meet the ball, and a pinpoint header to finish it off put the Blues in front.

Tuchel, who had moments earlier lost Thiago Silva to a suspected hamstring injury, saved N’Golo Kante for the final half hour as Villa, missing manager Steven Gerrard to Covid, struggled to lay a late glove on their opponents.

Lukaku helped seal the win with a sturdy counter-attacking run that lured Ezri Konsa into a foul, allowing Jorginho the chance to seal the points with his second spot-kick.

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