Paul Lambert returned to Stamford Bridge with six of the players who featured in the 8-0 drubbing by Chelsea last December in Wednesday night’s rescheduled fixture of the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League.
Although some controversial decisions by referee Kevin Friend could have irked the traveling fans, the 2-1 final score would however reflect the stern competition between title contenders and clubs in the middle of the pack as attested to by Chelsea’s Portuguese tactician, Jose Mourinho.
“That was very hard,” Mourinho said after the match. “I missed that about the Premier League! Normally matches in the Bernabeu we win every match very comfortable, this was very hard, it’s what I like. I told Paul Lambert that they deserve a point, it wouldn’t be unfair.”
With two tough matches against Manchester United and Bayern Munich around the corner, Mourinho introduced Eden Hazard and Demba Ba into his starting XI.
Chelsea went ahead after Hazard’s shot was unluckily pushed into his own goal by Antonio Luna, before Christian Benteke leveled up on the stroke of half-time.
Branislav Ivanovic powered in a second-half header to help Chelsea secure the necessary 3 points in a feisty encounter.
Villa had a late penalty appeal turned down after John Terry appeared to have handled the ball in the area.
There were heated scenes on the touchline between both managers, as Lambert argued Ivanovic should have been sent off for an incident with Benteke.
“It is easy to come on here and have sour grapes but it is there for everyone to see. He clearly elbowed Christian Benteke, it was a sending off,” Lambert said in his post-match spin.
Last Saturday’s 3-1 away victory over Arsenal buoyed Villa to another impressive display at the home of the Europa Cup winners and managed to suppress the home team’s attacking prowess as evident in last Sunday’s rampant first-half display against Hull.
Hazard and Oscar combined to provide a 7th minute opener, as the former burst into the area down the left and fired in a swinging shot that Brad Guzan pushed straight into the Chest of the helpless Luna from point blank range.
The ball bounced off his chest and over the line, for the scruffiest of opening goals.
Villa failed to succumb to Chelsea’s pressing despite the early setback. Andrea Weimann came close to leveling up for the visitors only for the Austrian to make a poor contact with Luna’s quickly taken free-kick, while his attempted header spins off his shoulder instead.
Chelsea continued to dominate possession but failed to create chances and this lack of penetration was to be punished seconds before the half-time.
Gabriel Agbonlahor raided down the left, leaving Ivanovic in his wake and pulled the ball back to Benteke, who took a touch before squeezing the ball between Petr Cech and his right hand post.
After the break, Weimann forced an excellent save off Cech after being picked out by Benteke’s delightful chipped pass before Agbonlahor curled narrowly over after teeing up with Matthew Lowton in a swift counter.
Chelsea got in front again in the 73rd minute through Ivanovic’s header, minutes after he was booked for hitting Benteke with a flailing arm.
Mounrinho’s men controlled the pace in the final stages of the match, while an injury time decision by referee, Friend, to wave aside penalty appeal by Villa when Terry appeared to block Agbonlahor’s header with his arm, further infuriated Lambert.
“The penalty was a penalty, everybody saw that. He missed two huge moments. ‘How can you miss that magnitude of a decision?’ It is beyond me,” Lambert added.