Two of the Blues’ young England internationals were on target at Stamford Bridge to bring an end to a run of three games without a win.
Tammy Abraham, back in the side and back among the goals, was on target against the club where he was top scorer on loan last season to give Frank Lampard’s team the lead midway through the first half, Reece James providing the assist, and although the visitors from Villa Park equalised before half-time thanks to a fortuitous finish by Trezeguet, the Chelsea winner was smashed in early in the second half.
That goal came off the boot of Mason Mount – his fifth goal of the season and first for his club for two months. From that point on the Blues worked hard for a third goal and were looking more like the attacking force of earlier in the season but without a sharp cutting edge.
A Willian free-kick was saved onto the woodwork by Aston Villa keeper Tom Heaton to leave the game in the balance but despite a couple of scrambles inside our penalty area close to the end and Kepa having to make a sharp save, we survived to bag all three points and maintain a six-point lead over the team in fifth in the Premier League table.
The evening had started with the good news before kick-off that Abraham had been passed fit to start having missed the weekend defeat against West Ham.
There were three other changes in addition to the young striker coming back in for Olivier Giroud. Jorginho was on the bench so Mateo Kovacic was the deeper midfielder with N’Golo Kante returning to the line-up. The other switches were in defence with Cesar Azpilicueta in for Emerson at left-back and Andreas Christensen replacing Fikayo Tomori in the middle.
Tonight was designated as our match in support of the Rainbow Laces campaign which meant a big, rainbow banner in the centre-circle before kick-off while in the stands at both ends of the Stamford Bridge, special giant banners in celebration of John Terry’s return to the stadium where he shone for so long were on show prior to the main event.
Within five minutes of that starting, Christian Pulisic showed some of the penetration which had been lacking during Saturday against the Hammers. The American’s run set up a shooting chance for Willian from an angle. Tom Heaton saved.
Villa were quiet in attack for most of the first half. They claimed a free-kick on the edge of our area for a challenge on their captain Jack Grealish early on but were not awarded one and did not threaten again until their goal.
At the Shed End, a Willian cross was deflected into the arms of their keeper following good work by Mount.
The young midfielder headed tamely at Heaton as the game approached its 20-minute mark and then skied a shot from the edge of the box moments later. His time would come.
Chelsea were however turning the screw and midway through the half the Aston Villa defence cracked. The game had not quite gone Abraham’s way up to that point. He had swung and missed at a couple of loose balls in the opposition penalty area, but he made no mistake when Reece James’s chipped-in ball from deep landed on his head 10 yards from goal. 1-0. His 12 of the campaign. Welcome back Tammy!
Not long after Abraham was back at the other end clearing a corner at the near post. That sprung a Blues counter-attack which floundered when our centre-forward’s squared pass did not make it as far as Pulisic who was waiting to shoot.
As half-time approached we survived when an ill-judged James pass back into his area went towards an opponent but a Villa leveller did come with five minutes to go before the interval, and while it was smoothly worked as far as the move and the cross were concerned, the execution was messy with Trezeguet heading the ball down onto his own leg and somehow bundling it in.
If there were concerns about how this game was panning out after the home defeat last time out, they were eased considerably with two minutes of the second half played when we scored goal number two. This time Abraham was the provider after Willian had contrived to chip a ball in from the right. Tammy chested it back and Mount, from just inside the area, volleyed it into the roof of the net. Unstoppable!
A Willian cross was deflected across the mouth of the goal but somehow did not end up in the net and the Brazilian had a thunderous shot on the run saved.
The Chelsea moves were good but without the final pass or finishing touch to give us the cushion of a two-goal lead.
Mount had a go from distance with a typically sweet strike which was deflected behind for a corner and then Abraham, played in by a clever Willian pass, floated a shot just beyond the far post.
Abraham nearly forced the ball home after a Pulisic shot bounced back off Heaton who then did excellently to finger-tip an expertly taken free-kick by Willian onto the post and out. Our no.10 looked on disbelieving that he had not found himself on the scoresheet tonight.
With the 90 minutes almost up, Kepa made a save low down at the foot of his post in front of the hopeful Villa fans and when he caught a cross in the final seconds, the points were safe.
Lampard and Terry were among those who shook hands at the end. The latter had the better of their meetings last season when Lamps was at Derby but tonight the spoils belonged to the man who has returned to Chelsea. Villa’s assistant boss was left to share applause with the Chelsea fans in the stands.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta (c); Kante, Kovacic, Mount; Willian (Jorginho 90+1), Abraham (Batshuayi 83), Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 86).
Unused subs Caballero, Tomori, Emerson, Giroud.
Scorers Abraham 23, Mount 48
Booked Mount 45, Kovacic 81
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Heaton; El Mohamady, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Nakamba, Hourihane (Douglas Luiz 58); Trezeguet (Jota 76), Wesley, Grealish (c).
Unused subs Nyland, Taylor, Engels, Lansbury, Nakamba.
Scorer Trezeguet 41
Booked Targett 63
Referee Christopher Kavanagh