Chelsea vs. Aston Villa: Final score 2-1, Blues claim 3 points with set piece goal

Jamie McDonald

Aston Villa gave Chelsea all they could handle, but Branislav Ivanovic came up with a big second-half winner for the hosts.

Chelsea have another three points, though they were made to work much harder for these than the ones they earned at the weekend. Aston Villa turned in a solid performance and found an equalizer in the first half after going down early, but conceded a free kick goal in the second half, after which the Blues held on for a 2-1 victory.

Antonio Luna turned in the game's opening goal, though it certainly wasn't his fault. Oscar set up the goal with a through ball down the left flank to Eden Hazard, who stepped forward and took a shot at the center of the goal. Brad Guzan made a save, but unfortunately for Villa he punched the ball right off the chest of Luna, who directed it into his own net.

Chelsea had all of the ball for the rest of the first half and played some pretty passing moves, but they failed to turn their dominance into another goal. Deep into first-half stoppage time, they were made to pay for that, with Aston Villa manufacturing a goal out of absolutely nowhere.

A well-directed free kick by Brad Guzan started the move that ended with Gabriel Agbonlahor cutting a ball back from the left wing toward the center of the box, where Christian Benteke was waiting. The Villa center forward took the ball down with his first touch, then placed a perfect strike off the inside of the near post with his second to beat Petr Cech and level the match heading into the locker room.

Just before the break, Aston Villa had a bit of bad luck with yet another injury to a central defender. Ciaran Clark -- who started in place of the injured Nathan Baker -- had to leave the match in the 43rd minute, with budding young star Jores Okore replacing him.

The pace of the second half was breakneck right from Kevin Friend's whistle as both teams pushed hard for a second goal. Eden Hazard had a brilliant chance to put the Blues back on top in the 60th minute when he found himself in front of goal with no one but the keeper to beat, but he knocked his shot wide to the right of Guzan. Three minutes later, Petr Cech was forced to make a close-range stop on Andreas Weimann, who was assisted by Benteke with a brilliant cross to the far post.

Chelsea reclaimed the lead in the 73rd minute, thanks to some poor set piece defending by the Villains, something their fans have become very used to over the past three seasons. Branislav Ivanovic had a completely free header on a free kick by Frank Lampard and made the most of his chance, powering it into the back of the net and giving Guzan no chance to make a stop.

The Blues got a late scare, but Cech came up big to preserve his side's win. Once again, in the 86th minute, Weimann found himself in front of goal with only Cech to beat. Once again he failed to score, placing his shot a bit too close to the Chelsea keeper.

Villa probably should have had a penalty in stoppage time, but the referee never spotted Chelsea's infraction. A lofted ball into the box pinballed off multiple players before hitting high on the outstretched arm of John Terry, but Friend waved away the visitors' protests. Despite the Villains' late efforts, they were unable to find an equalizer.

Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, Lampard, Ramires, Hazard, Mata (Schürrle 65'), Oscar (van Ginkel 84'), Ba (Lukaku 65')

Goals: Luna (OG 7'), Ivanovic (73')

Aston Villa: Guzan, Luna, Vlaar, Clark (Okore 43'), Lowton, El Ahmadi (Tonev 82'), Westwood, Delph, Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann

Goals: Benteke (45 + 3')

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