Ivanovic sends Chelsea seven points clear

Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2

Branislav Ivanovic earned Chelsea victory at Villa Park and extended their Premier League lead to seven points after Manchester City’s draw.

Eden Hazard had put the Blues in front early on by converting Willian’s pass.

Struggling Aston Villa levelled just after half-time through Jores Okore’s header – their first league goal in 660 minutes.

But on 66 minutes, Chelsea punished some slack Villa defending as Cesar Azpilicueta was allowed to put in a low cross which Ivanovic drilled home.

Jose Mourinho will have been pleased to have collected his first win at Villa Park at the sixth attempt, and to see City only draw 1-1 at home to Hull.

Chelsea’s trademark has been their rapid starts this season and they were in front after eight minutes in this one.

Oscar escaped down the right, laid the ball back to Willian and he teed up Hazard to sweep home from close range.

The Blues continued to have the edge in a low-key first half. Oscar had a near-post shot saved by Villa keeper Brad Guzan, while Ciaran Clark produced an outstanding recovery tackle to deny Ramires.

At the other end, Villa forced several corners and Gabby Agbonlahor nodded over – but the hosts looked a different side after the break.

They were on the front foot immediately after the restart, as Andreas Weimann clipped a shot just over and Tom Cleverley’s strike deflected behind.

The resulting corner was cleared back out to Carles Gil, who beat Oscar before swinging in a cross that was headed in by centre-back Okore.

Chelsea responded swiftly and Willian – sent-off in last season’s defeat at Villa Park – twice sent low drives from the edge of the box just past the post.

And they went ahead once more when a prostrate Okore allowed Azpilicueta to pull the ball back and Ivanovic pounced to drill the ball into the far corner.

Juan Cuadrado made his debut as a substitute for the final 10 minutes and Chelsea’s defence repelled everything thrown at them in injury time to secure the win.

Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian (Cuadrado 80), Oscar (Mikel 73), Hazard; Drogba (Remy 64).
Subs not used: Cech, Zouma, Ake, Loftus-Cheek.

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