Jose Mourinho finally managed his first win at Villa Park, beating the midlands team 2-1 in an encounter that was always going to be hard-fought, no matter what Aston Villa’s recent form would suggest.
There were no major surprises in the Blues’ team: Courtois started in goal, with Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta starting in defence. Despite being sent off in his last two trips to Villa Park, Ramires, having looked comfortable and assured alongside Matic recently, started the game again next to the Serbian in midfield. Mourinho opted not to start Chelsea’s new signing Juan Cuadrado, instead deploying the familiar attacking trio of Hazard, Oscar and Willian. Loic Remy’s impressive display against Manchester City last week only earned him a place on the bench, with Didier Drogba starting up front. The home side lined up with Guzan in goal; Hutton, Okore, Clark and Cissokho in defence; Gil, Cleverley, Westwood, Delph and Weimann in midfield; and Agbonlahor in attack.
Chelsea would have known that, just like last season’s trip to the midlands, the longer the game went without a goal the less likely they would be to win, so an early goal would be key for the West London side. That is exactly what they got when the deadlock was broken after only seven minutes. Oscar ran with the ball down the right channel, cut his pass back to Willian, the Brazilian then threaded a pass through to Hazard, who easily tucked the ball away into the bottom corner. A very simply taken goal.
Villa, however, responded well, getting the ball forward and into Chelsea’s box, but they rarely threatened. Ramires nearly doubled Chelsea’s lead, but some fantastic defending by Villa’s Kieran Clarke cleared the ball at the last possible moment. Other than a few late challenges, the rest of the first half went by without much incident.
It seemed though that only the home team emerged from the dressing room after half time, and they were rewarded for their early pressure a few minutes into the second half. Carlos Gil beat Oscar on the right flank and sent a cross to the back post, which Okore headed in with ease. Aston Villa had finally got the goal that they had been looking for after a drought of 11 hours of Premier League football. After the equaliser, both teams played with more intensity, but neither could create any real chances until just after the hour mark when Chelsea took the lead again. Some lazy defending by Villa allowed Azpilicueta to pick up the ball by the touch line and, after a failed clearance, the ball fell to Ivanovic just inside the 18 yard box, who hit the ball superbly on the half volley, sending it flying into the top corner.
After Chelsea’s second goal, Mourinho showed his intent to close the game off by bringing Mikel on for Oscar, though it could be said that one reason for this change was to play Ramires further up field, in an area where he was less likely to add to the booking he received in the first half.
Towards the end of the match Villa looked as though they had run out of steam, and they failed to create any more openings for themselves. Willian was replaced towards the end of the match by Chelsea’s new signing Cuadrado, but the lack of meaningful attacking intent from the Blues meant that he was unable to fully show off his talents.
Chelsea now take a seven point lead over their nearest rivals in the title race, with Manchester City only managing to salvage a draw with a late goal against Hull.