The £97.5 million striker last played in a Premier League home game for Chelsea in August 2013, when he hobbled around for the final 35 minutes of a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa.
Lukaku’s happier return to the club has resulted in immediate success, with goals coming in. He’s trying to make up for lost time.
And so are Chelsea, as the irrepressible Belgian’s superb first-half finish is exactly what this club has been wanting and might well be the difference in this season’s title fight.
It was the kind of score that pierced the heart of Villa’s game and brave performance. It was the deciding goal, and it is not the type of goal Chelsea would have scored last season.
With Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham at the helm, there’s no way.
Tuchel made six substitutions from the previous Premier League match. He had tired legs among his internationals, and he was thinking about the start of his Champions League defense on Tuesday.
Despite playing nearly two full games for Belgium in the previous fortnight, Lukaku was recalled to the starting lineup for his first home game since re-signing for a club record amount in the summer.
His second ‘homecoming’ was a distant second to the one he had at Manchester United, but it was no less significant.
As he lay prone on the ground, the Brazilian’s head blocked a ferocious Ollie Watkins shot, denying Villa an equaliser.
It was only Kovacic’s second Premier League goal for the Blues – Credit: Getty
Villa’s bad luck continued with Silva’s manhandling of Danny Ings in a first-half tussle in the centre circle.
Villa boss Dean Smith was justifiably enraged when Silva got away with dragging Ings to the ground as he threatened to break the Chelsea lines despite having two players booked by umpire Stuart Attwell.
When Chelsea debutant Saul flew in from the side on Watkins moments later, the only penalty was a free kick.
Frustrated After falling behind to a superb finish by Lukaku and an equally impressive assist from Mateo Kovacic, Villa simply refused to give up.
The midfielder dribbled to the halfway line before swerving a beautiful curving ball into the path of his teammate, who was going full steam ahead for the Villa goal.
Despite the score that put Chelsea ahead at halftime, Villa were unlucky not to be level at least before the second goal put them out of their misery.
Edouard Mendy made two excellent saves, one from Tyrone Mings and the other from Ezri Konsa. Chelsea’s goalkeeper had previously backtracked to parry a Villa corner ball off his line.
Thiago Silva, who was pushed into the starting lineup late on Friday night after FIFA and the Premier League worked out their differences over international clearances, was also crucial to the action.
Lukaku raced Axel Tuanzebe, turned play from his left to his right foot, and slotted a low ball past Villa stand-in keeper Jed Steer’s dive.
Still, Villa fought back, and Tuchel was frightened enough to put on Jorginho for newcomer Saul, who looked off the pace on his Premier League debut.
Chelsea put the game out of reach four minutes into the second half, thanks to Villa captain Mings shooting himself in the foot.
The England defender dreadfully underhit a back pass to his keeper mis pressure from Kovacic on the edge of his box, and the Croatian snuck in and dinked the ball off the inside of the post for number two.
Villa did not deserve to concede a third goal, but Lukaku’s performance deserved a second, as he used his more reliable left foot to slam in a party piece from the edge of the box.
Lukaku has already scored three Premier League goals this season, which is more than Kovacic has in three years.