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Friday, 23 August 2013 00:00

Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1: Branislav Ivanovic seals win as Paul Lambert's men push Blues all the way

Londoners claim second straight victory but look far from assured
by Amar Azam at Stamford Bridge

Football: It was enough to put them top of the table for now, but Chelsea were made to work for the victory against Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. A second-half goal from defender Branislav Ivanovic sealed the points for Jose Mourinho’s side, but the display was far from fluid.

Had Chelsea not taken the lead as early as they had done — they were ahead with barely six minutes on the clock when defender Antonio Luna put into his own net — it would have be interesting to see how they would have fared against the visitors.

Their first-half performance was nowhere near as dominant as the one against Hull City over the weekend. They allowed their opponents back into the match just before the interval, before taking the win in the second half.

The home side were gifted the lead in fortuitous circumstances. The young Brazilian Oscar began the move when he collected the ball from Frank Lampard before playing a neat pass through to Eden Hazard in the penalty area.

The Belgian international fired a shot goalwards which was well saved by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan. The ball, however, flew into the body of Luna, who could do little to stop the ball rebounding into the goal.

Chelsea looked comfortable for much of the first half, allowed to do so by Villa’s rather tame efforts, and seemed as if they were cruising through to the interval.

However, in the third minute of injury time, the visitors were back in the game when Benteke equalised for his side. In some style too.

Gabriel Agbonlahor must take credit for Villa’s equalising goal after he burst in behind Serbian defender Ivanovic before picking out Benteke. With John Terry standing off him, the Belgian striker took one touch of the ball to create space for himself before firing a firm, left-footed shot past Petr Cech.

Chelsea’s second-half performance was equally uneven. Mourinho had made two changes to the side that beat Hull. Demba Ba led the line, with Juan Mata also making a return to the first team. Both players, however, looked out-of-sorts and were replaced in the second half.

Despite the visitors looking stronger, Chelsea were back in the lead on 73 minutes when Ivanovic rose high to convert a free kick from Lampard.

Lambert’s players could have stolen a point with chances they had late on. Chelsea hung on, however.

The Blues' biggest test of the season comes on Monday evening when they travel to Manchester United.

Ahead of the closure of the transfer window on September 2, Chelsea are expected to attempt to yet again attempt to lure Wayne Rooney to London with another offer to the champions.

Aston Villa face Liverpool in their next match on Saturday.

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