Raheem Sterling of Chelsea celebrates after he scores. Alamy Stock Photo

Sterling sparkles as Pochettino earns first Chelsea win

Chelsea swept aside Luton 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.

RAHEEM STERLING SPARKLED with a brace and Nicolas Jackson bagged his first goal for the club as Chelsea swept aside Luton 3-0 to give Mauricio Pochettino his first Premier League win as Blues boss on Friday.

Sterling extended his impressive start to the season with a dazzling display that featured a sublime opener followed by a well-taken second and then an assist for Jackson.

The England forward’s return to form is the first sign Pochettino is starting to revitalise a team that struggled so badly last season.

Pochettino, who only took charge in July, has quickly brought the best out of Sterling after his career looked in danger of fizzling out following a lacklustre first season with Chelsea.

After drawing 1-1 with Liverpool and then losing 3-1 at West Ham, Pochettino will hope Chelsea’s first home win since March kick-starts his reign.

It is early days for the former Tottenham and Paris Saint Germain boss, who is fielding an overhauled team with a youthful look at present.

Pochettino was without nine first teamers due to injury, with skipper Reece James and summer signings Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia among the absentees.

chelseas-enzo-fernandez-and-luton-towns-jacob-brown-left-battle-for-the-ball-during-the-premier-league-match-at-stamford-bridge-london-picture-date-friday-august-25-2023 Chelsea's Enzo Fernandez and Luton Town's Jacob Brown. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

But Sterling, one of only a handful of experienced heads in Pochettino’s line-up, led by example to ensure Chelsea didn’t endure their worst start to a season since 1998-99.

Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo was solid in his first Chelsea start since his British record €134 million from Brighton.

Caicedo had endured a nightmare debut against West Ham as he gave away a penalty and looked rusty after coming off the bench, but this was a more steady display.

While Chelsea have great expectations after spending over €408m on new signings since the end of last seasons, promoted Luton’s more modest ambition is somehow avoiding relegation.

After 31 years outside the top-flight, this was the first of the glamour fixtures Luton dreamed of when they languished in non-league obscurity just nine years ago.

Only five years ago, Luton were playing in English football’s fourth tier and their status as the smallest club ever to play in the Premier League has made them firm favourites for relegation.

Thrashed 4-1 by Brighton in their season opener, Luton were playing just their second game after last weekend’s match against Burnley was postponed due to redevelopment work at tiny Kenilworth Road.

chelseas-nicolas-jackson-and-luton-towns-tom-lockyer-left-battle-for-the-ball-during-the-premier-league-match-at-stamford-bridge-london-picture-date-friday-august-25-2023 Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson and Luton Town's Tom Lockyer. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In an ironic nod to their humble history, Luton fans chanted “Conference champions, you’ll never sing that” at their Chelsea counterparts.

Sterling soon set about tormenting Luton on the pitch, firing a fierce volley from 10 yards that keeper Thomas Kaminski did well to stop on the line.

Enzo Fernandez blasted against the bar from the edge of the area after Jackson and Ben Chilwell opened up the Luton defence with a rapid counter-attack.

Sterling opened the scoring in eye-catching fashion in the 17th minute, cutting in from the right flank and slaloming past three bewildered Luton defenders before planting a fine low finish into the far corner.

Chilwell should have put Chelsea in complete control when he surged clear on goal early in the second half, but instead of shooting, the left-back bizarrely tried a pass to Sterling that was intercepted.

Against the run of play, Luton almost snatched a shock equaliser through Ryan Giles, who took Elijah Adebayo’s pass and hit a deflected shot that drew a panicked save from Robert Sanchez.

But Sterling ensured Chelsea’s dominance would not go unrewarded as he bagged their killer second goal in the 68th minute.

Malo Gusto provided the assist with a low cross that Sterling met with a clinical finish from eight yards.

Sterling turned provider seven minutes later with a teasing cross that eluded Luton’s defence before Senegal striker Jackson alertly poked home from close-range.

– © AFP 2023

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