Aston Villa are supposed to be tough. They've been brilliantly organised throughout the young season, capable of defending teams into frustrated submission and then snatching whatever opportunities present themselves. Yes, they got hammered by Arsenal last weekend, but considering the entire team had food poisoning or whatever bug was working their way through their collective system, the blip was forgiveable.
And I suppose that in one sense, Villa were tough. Chelsea didn't create many chances with the match at 0-0 or 1-0. The visitors were defending deep and in numbers, not giving us any room to play with. Small wonder that so much of our game was focused on hitting them down the flanks, which is where the goals all came from.
Fortunately the deep defensive line didn't have time to frustrate us, because Oscar scored more or less immediately. The goal was made on the right, with Branislav Ivanovic slipping Willian in behind the defence, and although his initial shot was well saved by Brad Guzan, the ball immediately came back to the Brazilian and he was able to push it out towards Oscar, whose tame swipe trickled over the line to give Chelsea a seventh-minute lead.
There were other chances, mostly of the half variety. Diego Costa had a header saved by Guzan, although he didn't exactly do a fantastic job of directing it. Willian broke free down the right but didn't shoot quickly enough. But said chances were limited, and Villa did a masterful job in closing up space. Eden Hazard in particular was given no time to accelerate, limiting his impact on the match, and Cesc Fabregas' notorious passing vision simply couldn't find an unmarked target.
But despite the frustration in front of goal, Chelsea had a lead and didn't look much like giving it up. Gabriel Agbonlahor was so isolated up front that he probably could have left the pitch without anyone noticing, and if not for a mazy run or two from Fabian Delph and the odd set piece, Thibaut Courtois might not have moved all game.
That said, a 1-0 lead is always fragile, and considering that the Blues had coughed up an advantage in three straight matches, everyone around Stamford Bridge was waiting for the second goal to come. No surprises as to who provided it.
Costa's eighth(!) goal for Chelsea came just before the hour mark. A little flick from Hazard opened up the space for Cesar Azpilicueta, not known for his attacking contribution on the left, to swing in a ball, and this time Costa's header beat Guzan to kill off the match. It was good timing, too -- Villa were just starting to get a little bit more possession and the threat of them scoring was no longer so remote that it could be safely scorned. But Costa Costas, and that was essentially that.
The rest of the match was a foregone conclusion. The only question was what the margin of victory would look like, and in truth it could have been far more than the 3-0 we ended up with. Oscar could have grabbed his second of the game when he poked past Guzan only to see his effort cleared off the line, so it was up to Willian to score the third, which he did mostly through Costa being awesome.
Picked out by Fabregas, the striker shimmied his way into the Villa box, set four defenders down with a drop of the shoulder and fired a shot which was parried by the goalkeeper straight into Aly Cissokho. The ball bounced kindly for Willian, who tapped in from close range. Substitute Loïc Rémy might have gotten a fourth with a thumping header, but the effort was both saved by Guzan and offside anyway.
But three was plenty. Chelsea, it seems, have learned to tow the bus.