Fortunate Ivanovic helps Chelsea beat Villa
Updated: Wednesday, 21 Aug 2013 23:11
Branislav Ivanovic headed a second-half winner as Chelsea escaped from a lacklustre performance against Aston Villa with a 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
The Serb rose to power a free kick from Frank Lampard into the back of the net on 73 minutes, after Christian Benteke had cancelled out an early own goal from Villa defender Antonio Luna.
Ivanovic was perhaps lucky to be on the pitch, however, as moments before he grabbed the winner he was adjudged to have elbowed Benteke with referee Kevin Friend producing only a yellow card when it could have been red.
The Villa dugout was up in arms again in stoppage time when John Terry appeared to handle a cross from Fabian Delph but Friend waved away their appeals.
In a match rescheduled from August 31 due to Chelsea's involvement in the UEFA Super Cup against Bayern Munich a day earlier, Juan Mata and Demba Ba started in place of Kevin de Bruyne and Fernando Torres, respectively, with the latter not even on the bench.
Villa, whose manager Lambert was unhappy the date was moved to the first Wednesday of the season, named 10 of the players who started at Arsenal, the one enforced change as Ciaran Clark started in place of the injured Nathan Baker.
Just as against Hull on Sunday, Chelsea started with chants of 'Jose Mourinho' echoing around the ground and with a purpose which saw them take an early lead.
Oscar fed Hazard in the left side of the area and the Belgian's shot was blocked by Guzan, but only into the path of Luna who could do nothing about the deflection into his own net.
Villa also went behind after six minutes on Saturday, but feared conceding another as Chelsea maintained the intensity with which they began the game.
Yet Villa, in contrast to last December, were not as porous and try as they might, with Oscar and Hazard threatening, Chelsea could not breach the visitors' defence.
Ba, playing as a lone striker, was finding life challenging against Ron Vlaar and Clark, who had to be replaced by Jores Okore following a clash of heads with the Senegal striker.
Living off scraps, Ba shot straight at Guzan before Villa broke forward, equalising with the last kick of the half.
Agbonlahor surged by Ivanovic down the left and cut the ball back for Benteke to shoot left-footed and low into the net.
It was the sort of incisive play Mourinho demands of his teams.
The ineffective Ba was unable to make space for a shot under pressure from Vlaar as the second half resumed at a frenetic pace, with Mourinho telling his team to be patient.
Agbonlahor curled just off target from a Matthew Lowton cross-field pass and Andreas Weimann forced Cech into a save from a Benteke cross.
Mourinho lamented the disappearance of Hazard, De Bruyne and Oscar following the opening half against Hull and again his playmaking trio's influence declined as the match wore on.
Mata, in particular, seemed to struggle to get into the game and was replaced by Andre Schurrle, when Romelu Lukaku came on for Ba.
Chelsea were fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men as Ivanovic challenged Benteke in the air and caught the Belgian with a wild arm.
Lambert, who was showing the same energy as his team in a technical area tussle with Mourinho, was furious.
Lampard hooked the ball off the foot of Okore from the resulting Ashley Westwood free-kick as Villa threatened once more, but then Chelsea struck.
Vlaar shoved over Lukaku and Lampard swung in a free-kick which Ivanovic met unopposed six yards out as all Villa's strong defensive work was undone with one set-piece.
Cech saved well from Weimann and John Terry survived a handball shout following Fabian Delph's cross as Chelsea clung on.