Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1 match report: Blues take early lead in Premier League as Branislav Ivanovic escapes red card to deny Aston Villa

The defender's goal was the difference between the sides in west London

Stamford Bridge

There were times when maintaining Chelsea's unbeaten home league record during his first spell at Stamford Bridge was as easy for Jose Mourinho as walking his Yorkshire terrier around Holland Park. Tonight was a reminder that in the Premier League of 2013, life will be different.

Chelsea are top of the league with six points from their first two games in the space of four days, which is a position that Mourinho will not want to concede easily, especially come the game at Old Trafford on Monday. But they were made to work damn hard for it tonight by a fine Aston Villa performance that stretched Chelsea all the way and might even have merited more.

The winning goal was headed past Brad Guzan by Branislav Ivanovic on 73 minutes, a fine finish, albeit with a touch of offside about it. Yet minutes earlier, the Chelsea right-back had caught Christian Benteke, Villa’s goalscorer, with a flailing elbow. It was by no means a clear-cut red card but may have earned a dismissal from some referees.

Extensive petitioning by John Terry and Frank Lampard followed and referee Kevin Friend opted to show Ivanovic the yellow rather than the red. When the ball struck Terry’s raised arm in the penalty area in injury-time at the end of the game, Friend did not react and the Villa bench were incensed.

For Lambert there were no doubts. “We have been ‘done’ by two big decisions”, said the Villa manager. On Saturday it could be said that he benefited from the performance of Anthony Taylor in the win over Arsenal but this is the Premier League and life moves on quickly. Tonight Villa left London convinced that with a different referee they might still be unbeaten.

Upon such decisions are games decided and this was a real beauty; it shaped up to be a hard night for Villa at first but this young team held their own in impressive style. Three academy graduates in the starting XI; three more signed from Football League clubs. Paul Lambert’s team are maturing nicely.

As for Mourinho, after the blitz of Hull in the first half on Sunday, this was the dogfight that tested his team’s mettle. Afterwards he blamed himself for not making more changes from the Sunday's side – he made only two – but praised the resilience of his team. Certainly, in the difficult moments they dug out a result and they relied heavily upon Petr Cech when the pressure was intense.

“The team fought very hard and sometimes you have to win because you play fantastic football, “Mourinho said. “Sometimes when you don’t do that you have to play based on other things and tonight other things gave us the game.” Against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday, Mourinho’s side will have to be more polished, and they will also have to demonstrate the fight they showed against Villa.

At times in the first half, certainly in the opening stages, Villa struggled to contain a Chelsea side that looked determined to build on the solid work of their first half performance against Hull City on Sunday. In those opening stages of the game, Chelsea worked their opponents hard all over the pitch. It was relentless and Villa did well to stay in touch.

They could not prevent the breakthrough, an own goal by Antonio Luna on six minutes after Oscar’s pass into the left channel unzipped the Villa defence and let Eden Hazard in on goal. His shot was actually well-saved by Guzan but the goalkeeper succeeded only in pushing it against Luna, running towards his own goal, from where it was deflected into the net.

Weaker teams would have allowed themselves to be steam-rollered. With Juan Mata back in the team the three little maestros at Chelsea’s creative heart last season were re-united. And they passed the ball beautifully at times but the problem was Demba Ba, who took Fernando Torres’ place. Ba scarcely made an impression on Villa’s defence which had to be reshuffled when Ciaran Clark picked up a bad cut to his head and Jores Okore was sent on to replace him.

For the whole of that first half, Lambert’s young team worked the full press on Chelsea. It is hard going to shut down a team as sharp as this one but they made an excellent job of it. As for Chelsea, they tried to get Ba into the game with the long balls over the top hit by Terry or Gary Cahill. But Ba is no Didier Drogba and he could not make it stick.

As for Villa, they had two good chances and they took the second. The first fell to Andreas Weimann who did not get a clean connection on a header at the back post when Luna had got free down the left and crossed for him. It was the first time that Ivanovic had let anyone in behind him but when he did for the second time, Villa scored.

Gabby Agbonlahor, who worked hard all half without much chance to run with the ball, saw his chance to take on the Serb. A frustrating player at times, Agbonlahor only has three England caps but on his day he can take on the best of them. Having got behind Ivanovic he found Benteke with a fabulous cut-back. The Villa centre-forward needed one touch to take the ball onto his left and another to sweep it past Cech and in off the post. 

In the absence of any deal for Wayne Rooney on the horizon, Benteke looks exactly the kind of striker that Mourinho could do with. Less so, Ba whose distinctly unimpressive evening came to a close on 64 minutes when he was replaced by Romelu Lukaku, a change that might have been made much earlier. Later, when Mourinho was asked about Benteke he described him as ‘a great player for a certain style of football’, which is no compliment at all.

Mourinho also substituted Mata and introduced Andre Schurrle. By that point there was a case for saying that Villa were on top. They had certainly created the better chances at that point. Agbonlahor had curled a Matt Lowton pass across goal just over. Weimann should have done better with a back-post volley from Benteke’s cross.

There are never more than a few chances to put Chelsea away when they are at home and those passed Villa by. Then came a game-changing two minutes when Ivanovic first caught Benteke with an elbow and was only booked by referee Friend. Then, within two minutes, the Serbian was the most decisive when Lampard struck a free-kick into the box and it was the Chelsea right-back who connected with a powerful header past Guzan. He looked offside when the ball was struck.

The Terry handball, and a fine save from Cech from Weimann followed. Chelsea had hung on which, on a difficult night, is a sign of a team who, whatever the circumstances, will not give up the fight easily.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Mata (Schurrle, 65), Oscar (Van Ginkel , 84), Hazard; Ba (Lukaku, 65). Substitutes not used Schwarzer (gk), Mikel, Schurrle, De Bruyne, Azpilicueta.

Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Clark (Okore, 43), Luna; El Ahmadi (Tonev, 82), Westwood, Delph; Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used Steer (gk), Bennett, Bacuna, Helenius, Stylla.

Referee K Friend (Leciestershire)

Man of the match Delph

Match rating 8

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicHunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original  manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... while following the referendum
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week