It didn't take long to open the coring today, as Chelsea were ahead just minutes into this one. Ashley Cole did a brilliant job cutting out a ball with his head and dropping it at the feet of Frank Lampard, and just like that the Villians were in trouble. Lampard found Oscar, Oscar brilliantly fed Eden Hazard, and Hazard's cross wound up hitting several Villa players on it's path into the back of the net.
Chelsea controlled the bulk of the play after the Villa OG, but Christian Benteke would pull the Birmingham side level just seconds before the break. Gabby Agbonlahor picked out the Belgian striker about 10 yards from goal, and a brilliantly placed shot in the corner sent it to the break level at 1-1.
Jose Mourinho didn't make any changes to start the second half, although his side looked more focused than they did for much of the first. Demba Ba had a weak shout for a penalty just minutes after the restart, one of the few instances in the game in which he managed to time his run correctly.
Mourinho brought on Lukaku and Andre Schurrle in the 65th minute of the match, replacing Demba Ba and Juan Mata in the attack. Schurrle was so excited to get on the pitch the he forgot his shinpads though, and had to come off briefly while he corrected the error.
Minutes later, Branislav Ivanovic was a bit lucky not to be sent off as he elbowed Benteke in the head. That would prove a huge turining point in the match, as a 73rd minute free kick ended up with Branbearpig heading the ball into the back of the Villa net.
The 76th minute brought another scare for Ivanovic, as more contact with the Belgian sent him crashing to the floor again. This time the booking went to Benteke though, as he dragged the Serb down before being caught (or possibly not) by a high boot.
Chelsea's final change came in the 84th minute, with Marco van Ginkel coming on in place of Oscar. It looked as if the Blues were trying to tighten up and assure the three points, which didn't sound like a bad idea with under ten minutes to play.
The five minutes(!) of stoppage time saw a real shout for a Villa penalty, but I think that would have been harsh as Terry was being pulled by a Villa player on the handball. It ended 2-1, and Chelsea fans are happy. Here are some thoughts that popped into my head while I was watching this one:
- I was a bit surprised to see Demba Ba get the start today against Villa. After Torres started the opener, I think the vast majority expected to see Romelu Lukaku get the nod this evening in London.
- Speaking of Ba, it's really odd watching a game like this where our CF is being called offside repeatedly once I got used to seeing Fernando Torres and his constant runs in the other direction. Wouldn't it be great if we had a third option that could do what Ba was doing today while managing to stay onside?
- Ramires has been mostly excellent in all of Mourinho's games thus far. He looks like he's going to be a key contributor for the Blues this season.
- Too many times today all four of our attacking players were bunched together in the center of the pitch. With the fullbacks staying deeper to deal with the threat of Villa's wide forwards, this made it fairly easy for the Villa defense to foil our attacks by simply remaining compact.
- Speaking of a lack of width when Mazacar is on the pitch, it might be worth considering either Michael Essien or Marco van Ginkel in the midfield with Ramires when we play them all. Those guys cover a bit more ground, and that may well allow Ashley Cole and whomever is playing right back to provide some width more frequently.
- Romelu Lukaku is a beast.
- Petr Cech is the man.
- Chelsea are top of the table, with a statement game coming up on the weekend.