Chelsea made it two wins from two in the Premier League following Jose Mourinho’s return as they edged Aston Villa 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. After a comfortable opening win against Hull City, the visitors from the Midlands posed a far stiffer test to Mourinho’s title hopefuls and they will be relieved to have come away with their perfect record intact.
Villa came into the match after their own fine victory at the weekend -- 3-1 at Arsenal -- and responded well to going behind through Antonio Luna unwittingly deflecting the ball into his own net. Christian Benteke made it three goals in two games right before half-time to show why Villa were so desperate to keep the Belgian in the summer.
Still, Chelsea were able to get the three points with a header from Branislav Ivanovic 17 minutes from time. Whether Ivanovic should have been on the pitch at that point, however, is a highly arguable point after the Serbian looked to have caught Benteke with a deliberate elbow. Villa will also be left ruing a late penalty appeal being turned down for what appeared a clear handball from John Terry,
Chelsea had begun in almost unstoppable fashion against Hull on Sunday and they again started well at Stamford Bridge as Mourinho’s return continued to create a fine atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. Within just seven minutes they were in front. Oscar slipped a neat ball into Eden Hazard down the left of the area and the Belgian cut inside before curling a shot toward the far corner that Brad Guzan saved but only to see the ball come back off the chest of Luna and into the net.
Villa had been beaten 8-0 at Stamford Bridge last season in match that represented the nadir of their troubled season. Yet, it was also a contest that manager Paul Lambert believes his young side learned a lot from and will help ensure a better campaign this time around. There was certainly evidence of that development as they got back on level terms against the title favorites right on the stroke of half time.
Gabriel Agbonlahor had too much pace for Ivanovic down the left and fed a low ball into the near post that Benteke collected and, given too much space by John Terry, was able to fire a crisp left-footed shot low past Petr Cech.
The visitors could have gone in front in the second half too as Andreas Weimann went close. It certainly appeared that Villa should have been given a numerical advantage when Ivanovic took a look at Benteke and then aimed an elbow at his head during a challenge for a ball. Much to Lambert’s anger on the sideline, referee Kevin Friend produced only a yellow card.
And Lambert’s frustration was about to get even worse. Just minutes after he should have been off the pitch, Ivanovic rose to head Frank Lampard’s free-kick into the net. When a clear handball from Terry was not spotted in the closing moments, Villa knew it was not to be there night.