A Branislav Ivanovic double was sandwiched by goals from Daniel Sturridge and Fernando Torres as Chelsearesisted an Aston Villa comeback to secure all three points with a 4-2 win on Saturday. A dramatic second-half comeback was doused by two late Chelsea goals as Ivanovic headed home and Torres slid his shot below Shay Given. The Blues have made it six wins in eight games under Roberto Di Matteo. Aston Villa’s inexperienced lineup was guilty of some sloppy defending that was punished clinically by Sturridge in the first half and Ivanovic twice in the second period, while Torres was a textbook counterattack in the dying seconds.
“We keep this positive momentum and spirit. Every game and win helps us continue and believe.” -De Matteo
Chelsea started quickly and David Luiz’s perfectly weighted through pass had Torres in on goal after just five minutes. But the Spaniard’s hesitancy allowed Collins to apply enough pressure to help Given’s smother the shot and prevent the goal.
The hosts did show some fight as James Collins’ firm header pulled a goal back before Eric Lichaj equalized but that merely provoked Chelsea to score two more after almost passing themselves into a stupor. Despite Steven Warnock’s excellent block as Torres seemed set to score, Sturridge pounced to slam the ball home and crown his 50th Chelsea appearance with a goal. As soon as the clock turned to 19 minutes, the Villa Park crowd stood for a minute’s applause in honour of Stiliyan Petrov, who was diagnosed with acute leukaemia on Friday, with two sets of balloons in the red, white and green of the Bulgarian flag drifting over the heads of the Chelsea supporters. There followed a period of jousting in which neither side created a glaring opportunity. The best efforts came as Baker volleyed over from a corner and Sturridge hit an ambitious 25-yard shot at Given. As halftime approached, Villa carved its best chance as Barry Bannan controlled Weimann’s cross on the right side of the area. His layoff to Agbonlahor gave the striker the space to touch and strike low at goal but Petr Cech saved fantastically with his legs after initially misreading the direction of the effort. Seconds before the interval, Gary Cahill replaced Luiz who appeared to have picked up a minor knock. Mata’s corner evaded Frank Lampard at the near post and landed invitingly at Ivanovic’s feet. The Serbian defender accepted the gift, smashing a snapshot past Given for his first league goal of the season. Florent Malouda came on for Mata and went up front – an indication of how lightly the visitors were taking the final stages. But there was a twist as Collins met a long throw to plant his header past Cech and give Villa a goal. Suddenly, the fans in the Holte End awoke and there was a game on once again. Villa buoyed by a rare goal, pressed Chelsea as it sought an unlikely equalizer. Mark Albrighton collected the ball on the left flank before attacking Ivanovic. His low cross traveled between Cech and his defenders and as Ashley Cole showed trepidation at the back post, Lichaj arrived to poke home Villa’s second. Chelsea had thrown it away. Or had it? Di Matteo’s side showed the response expected from Champions League quarterfinalists and Ivanovic headed home his second of the game from another corner. Torres provided the assist with a deft front post flick and it looked like Chelsea had got out of jail with five minutes to play. Villa pressed for another late surprise but, this time, the Chelsea defense held firm, led by captain John Terry. Sturridge led a last minute counterattack and he assisted Torres for a rare goal as he controlled the pass and smashed the ball low past Given.
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From 2-0 up and sleepwalking toward three points to 2-2 and then, amazingly, 4-2 – this was not the way any of us expected this match to play out. And if you did, you’re a weird soul. Nevertheless, it’s a crucial win as we inch closer to the top four.
To say 3 points were vital. Trailing Tottenham by 5 points andArsenal by 8 in the race for Champions League places is going to leave us very little room for error going forward, and winning by a few goals here and there would go a long way in the goal differential department as well. With that in mind, facing off against a Villa side ravaged by injuries today seemed like a good chance to at least do no harm in oour quest for the top 4.