Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea: Visitors break drought but Blues stay strong

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Aston Villa thought they had a moment to hang their hats on, but Paul Lambert was bested again.

Jores Okore broke Aston Villa’s goalless drought at exactly 11 hours with his equalizer just after halftime, but Branislav Ivanovic provided the winner for Chelsea with a scorcher to see the Blues through to a seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

It didn’t take long for Chelsea to assert their dominance over a slumping Villa side. In just the eighth minute, Oscar poked a ball to Willian at the top corner of the box, and he found Eden Hazard cutting through the box, ahead of Alan Hutton for an easy finish.

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Chelsea absorbed a bit of pressure after the goal, as is their style, but they came close to another on 23 minutes. Nemanja Matic broke with numbers, and his layoff found Willian but Brad Guzan parried the close-range shot over the bar.

The visitors were clearly happy to sit back and hit on the counter, and Villa had little in response to finish out the first half. Villa had somewhat of a chance minutes before the halftime whistle but Chelsea poured numbers behind the ball and the visitors’ goalscoring drought continued.

But in the second half, all that would change. Aston Villa would end their debilitating run without a goal when Carles Gil’s cross picked out Jores Okore at the back post all alone and he headed easily past Thibaut Courtois to level the score and lift Villa into a scene of delight. It ended a run of exactly 11 hours without a goal for the home side.

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But it wouldn’t last. With Chelsea back into search-mode looking for the lead again, Jose Mourinho threw on Loic Remy, but it was their two wing-backs that made the difference. Cesar Azpilicueta’s blocked cross came right back to him, and he lifted the ball across the box for a wide-open Branislav Ivanovic who ripped a powerful left-footed blast into the top corner for a 2-1 lead.

They’d see the ball out as weekly bus driver John Obi Mikel came on to see the game out, and while Lambert brought on Benteke soon after Ivanovic scored, they had little to offer. Juan Cuadrado came on for his Chelsea debut as well, and the Blues picked up all three points to go even farther on top of Manchester City, who dropped points at home to Hull City. Villa, meanwhile, have now gone since December 7 without a win and they fall to 16th, just two points above the relegation zone.

LINEUPS

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Okore, Clark, Cissokho, Westwood, Delph, Cleverley (Sinclair 74′), Agbonlahor (Benteke 68′), Weimann (Cole 80′), Gil.

Goals: Okore 48′

Chelsea Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian (Cuadrado 80′), Oscar (Mikel 73′), Hazard; Drogba (Remy 64′).

Goals: Hazard 8′, Ivanovic 66′