Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1
Chelsea edged out Aston Villa in a feisty and controversial encounter at Stamford Bridge to move top of the Premier League with two wins from two games. Having taken an early lead through an Antonio Luna own-goal, the Blues were pegged back by Benteke and it took a second-half header from Branislav Ivanovic to secure the victory.
The widespread personnel changes that some had predicted did not materialise and José Mourinho opted to make only two to the side which beat Hull City on Sunday. Juan Mata was given his first start of the season in place of Kevin De Bruyne whilst Demba Ba was preferred to Fernando Torres, the Spaniard presumably set for a start against Manchester United on Monday.
Having begun the season well against Hull on Sunday, expectations were that Chelsea would take a similar approach. They did so by taking the lead with just seven minutes on the clock.
Eden Hazard opened Villa up down the left having peen picked out by Oscar and he burst into the box before firing at goal. Villa were a touch unlucky as Guzan palmed the ball into the path of Luna and it deflected off him and into the back of the net to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
It was a dream start but Chelsea seemed unable to maintain their high opening tempo. As the game began to slow, the visitors began to provide sterner resistance without creating anything of note at the other end.
Chelsea’s chances were restricted to shots from distance, with Oscar shooting over as dominant possession failed to result in goal scoring opportunities. Eventually, after 20 minutes, Villa did manage to create something through El Ahmadi, but his shot went wide without troubling Petr Cech.
Much of Chelsea’s play was coming through the middle, with Hazard unable to replicate his searing run which had led to the first goal. With Oscar and Mata slightly off-colour it was proving difficult for their side to break through the stubborn defence of the visitors, although the Brazilian did manage a shot which went wide of the mark on the half-hour.
Although Chelsea had been uninspiring since scoring, they looked set to go in 1-0 up at the break until Benteke stunned Stamford Bridge in stoppage time. Agbonlahor did well to create space down the by-line and he pulled the ball back for Benteke, who took a touch before rifling a shot past Cech at his near post to level the scores.
It came against the run of play but was punishment for Chelsea’s failure to exert meaningful pressure on their visitors and gave them work to do in the second period.
Neither side made any changes at the break and Chelsea immediately went in search of a second goal. There were vociferous appeals for a penalty within minutes of the re-start when Demba Ba went down under the challenge of Vlaar inside the box but referee Friend was having none of it and waved play on.
Ba was cutting a peripheral figure up front with a number of offside calls going against him and Chelsea seemed unable to pick the lock of Villa’s defence who were holding firm in the face of waves of attack.
It was clear that they were going to be dangerous on the break and just after the hour they almost took the lead when Agbonlahor curled an effort just over the crossbar with Cech beaten.
It was a warning to Chelsea but they failed to heed it and moments later the Villains had another chance. Benteke found Weimann inside the box and he fired a volley at goal which drew Cech into a wonderful save.
Chelsea had to do something to get back into the game and push for a winner and Mourinho chose to introduce Romelu Lukaku and Andre Schurrle for Ba and Mata respectively.
The substitutions instantly had an impact as Chelsea began to turn the screw. Lukaku and Schurrle offered an urgency that had been lacking before and for the first time in 15 minutes a goal looked more likely for them than for Villa.
With both sides growing frustrated at a lack of clear opportunities however, tempers began to flare.
In the 69th minute, Ivanovic found himself lucky to still be on the pitch after he tussled with Benteke and seemed to lead with the elbow. The referee seemingly took the view that it was part of an ongoing battle between the two men and only showed Ivanovic a yellow card, a decision which was to prove even more controversial two minutes later when Chelsea won a free-kick down the right.
Frank Lampard stepped up and whipped the ball into the box where Ivanovic was waiting and the Serb powered a header past Guzan and into the back of the net. Chelsea were back in front with 18 minutes left to play and the Villa manager was left fuming.
Chelsea were now looking much more dangerous and came close to making it 3-1 when Lukaku turned in the box in a Drogba-esque fashion and slammed a shot into the side netting. The third goal that Chelsea needed to seal the win didn’t arrive however and left them facing a nervy finish to the game.
Villa continued to create chances and with five minutes to go could have grabbed a second equaliser but again Cech was on hand to stop Weimann.
Then, in injury time, with the game looking all but won, Villa were left screaming for a penalty when the ball hit John Terry on the arm inside the box. There was little he could have done to avoid it, but it was the sort of decision that has been given before and it was a let off for the Blues.
Thankfully, Chelsea got away with it and the full-time whistle brought relief and another 3 points as Chelsea delivered a win without playing at their best, in many respects a typical Mourinho performance.
Chelsea; Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Mata (Schurrle 64), Oscar (Van Ginkel 83), Hazard, Ba (Lukaku 64)
Unused subs; Schwarzer, Azpilicueta, Mikel, De Bruyne
Scorers; Luna own goal 5, Ivanovic 72
Referee; K Friend