Chelsea began their post-Jose Mourinho era by scoring three goals in the Premier League for the first time in nearly four months to beat Sunderland.
A dismal start to the Premier League campaign culminated in the Portuguese coach parting company with the club on Thursday following back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Leicester City.
Guus Hiddink was appointed as his replacement until the end of the season in the hours leading up to Saturday’s match, but he watched from the stands while Steve Holland and Eddie Newton took charge of first-team affairs.
Support for the departed Mourinho, who claimed three Premier League titles during two spells at Chelsea, was evident in the form of banners and chants from the home faithful, while Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa had their names booed ahead of kick-off and when they were substituted.
The Blues began to win the crowd back when Branislav Ivanovic opened the scoring with five minutes on the clock before Pedro netted his first top-flight goal since August to put Chelsea 2-0 up after 13 minutes.
Oscar added to Chelsea’s lead from the penalty spot early in the second half, and, although Fabio Borini pulled one back against his former club, Sunderland were unable to mount a comeback and remain in the relegation zone following a third-straight defeat.
Chelsea made two changes from Monday’s loss at Leicester, with Fabregas and Pedro in for Ramires and Eden Hazard, who missed out with a hip injury, while Sam Allardyce restored Younes Kaboul, Jack Rodwell and Jermain Defoe to his line-up.
The defending Premier League champions took just five minutes to get off the mark, Ivanovic getting away from Sebastian Coates to steer a header from Willian’s corner past Costel Pantilimon and into the top corner.
Eight minutes later Chelsea extended their lead when Coates failed to deal with an Ivanovic cross and Pedro reacted quickly, pouncing on the loose ball and slamming it into the top corner.
The hosts remained on top and in control of possession, so Allardyce replaced Coates with Adam Johnson midway through the half and switched to a four-man defence.
Sunderland continued to struggle defensively and a good save from Pantilimon in the 26th minute stopped Oscar from adding to Chelsea’s tally after he waltzed into the box from deep.
The visitors passed up a chance to pull one back through Duncan Watmore and Costa also missed the target twice before the interval.
It was 3-0 five minutes after the restart when Pantilimon brought down Willian inside the box and Oscar slotted home from the subsequent penalty.
Sunderland were unperturbed and three minutes later Borini, a half-time substitute, reduced the deficit when he was in the right place to bundle Thibaut Courtois’ parry from a Kaboul header into the back of the net.
The goal made Chelsea look vulnerable defensively, but Defoe was unable to capitalise and set up a tense finale when he sliced wide in the 68th minute.
Loic Remy was denied by Pantilimon 10 minutes from time and Defoe forced Courtois into a save with a deflected strike from the edge of the box, but the defending champions had done enough to put breathing space between themselves and the relegation zone.