Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1: Three talking points as Ivanović nets winner
Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 1: What are the main talking points from the Blues' narrow win against Paul Lambert's men?
Villa won’t let an early goal knock their confidence
Paul Lambert’s side were the only team in the Premier League to gain more points on the road than at home last season, and despite conceding within the first 10 minutes against Arsenal and Chelsea this campaign, they’ve shown a real resilience and grit not to get left behind. At the weekend, the Birmingham side turned things around comprehensively and eventually won 3-1 at The Emirates. On Wednesday night, they rode an early spell of pressure and got a foothold back into the game thanks to Christian Benteke’s first-half equaliser in the third minute of injury time. Villa were sturdy in defence and their midfield working tirelessly, with their unrelenting endeavour meriting a goal. In fact, if some decisions had gone their way, Villa could have come out with another respectable win. Lambert should take heart from his side’s stubborn spirit because it will be vital in ensuring the Birmingham outfit aren’t dragged into another relegation battle.
The Blues have great strength in depth
When the team sheets were released prior to kick-off at Stamford Bridge, there would have been many Chelsea fans left bemused by the inclusion of Demba Ba, with the highly-rated Romelu Lukaku remaining on the bench for the second consecutive game. The decision, in reality, is indicative of Jose Mourinho’s rotation policy. After a stunning pre-season, there’s little doubt that Lukaku remains the first-choice back-up to the rested Fernando Torres. But Ba was given a chance to prove his worth to Mourinho, and perhaps any watching suitors. The Blues boss has hardly been coy in his admittance that the club are seeking another striker, and with potentially four players vying for just one spot, you imagine one (seemingly Ba) would leave. Elsewhere, Branislav Ivanović was rampant down the right flank, leaving last season’s first-choice full-back Cesar Azpilicueta on the bench alongside the likes of Mikel, Marco van Ginkel, Kevin De Bruyne, Andre Schürrle and Lukaku. Lest we forget that Michael Essien, Victor Moses and Fernando Torres didn’t even make the match-day sqaud, and with David Luiz sidelined with injury, Chelsea surely have one of the strongest collection of players in the Premier League without spending as lavishly as in previous seasons – instead being bolstered by returning loanees and a focus on youth in the transfer market.
Ivanović is playing with fire
Fearless, quick and strong; these are just a few reasons why Ivanović has become a real fans’ favourite during his time at Stamford Bridge. However, the one area where he’s struggled in the past has been his temperament, and he produced a mixed performance against Villa. Ivanović kept the pacey Gabriel Agbonlahor under wraps for the most part of the first half, and his only real mistake was being left for dead on the turn for Villa’s goal. In the second half, however, he hardly endeared himself to the away support, tussling with Benteke on numerous occasions with a few flailing arms. He was booked for one particularly heavy one, which replays showed could have deemed a stronger response from the referee, before scoring the winner from a debatable offside position just two minutes later. Referee Kevin Friend will no doubt feel the lashing of Villa fans’ tongues for questionable decisions, but Mourinho must give Ivanović some of his own. Had the Serb seen red, you may just have fancied Villa for the win, and Mourinho will want to avoid his defender getting a reputation for elbowing, and unfavourable added attention from future referees.