Much was made of Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge ahead of tonight’s clash, with few bothering to mention that, under his guidance, Chelsea had failed to beat Aston Villa in their last four meetings.
With the travelling Villa fans in good voice, buoyed by Saturday’s win, it was the home team that got off to a flying start. After seven minutes, Hazard’s sloping drive from an Oscar ball was parried by Guzan and deflected by the unfortunate Luna into the net.
Lambert’s Lions fought on, proving that they are now stronger, mentally and physically, than the team hammered 8-0 on their last trip to the Bridge in December 2012.
Weimann looked threatening and his header was blocked in the 20th minute before Karim El Ahmadi’s long-range effort went wide.
Clark was today’s defender in distress, receiving a nasty gash on his head after colliding with Ba’s boot. As blood gushed from the head wound, Okore replaced the injured Irishman with five minutes of the first half to play.
On the verge of half-time, Benteke, who terrorised Chelsea when they visited Villa Park last season, quietened the Blues, and their fans, once again, proving his class as he scored a goal from nowhere. The ‘Belgian Beast’ picked up Agbonlahor’s cross, ignored the progressing Terry and unleashed a booming shot that beat Cech completely.
There was much more drama to come in an edgy second half.
Even though the hosts enjoyed more than their fair share of possession, Villa pushed Chelsea all the way, continuing to hit on the break, with Weimann looking hungry for a goal.
In the 71st minute, Ivanovic could, and should, have been sent off for a swinging arm that caught Benteke but referee Kevin Friend deemed it a yellow card, incensing all those in claret and blue but none more than Lambert: the fourth official had to step between the two managers as the frustrated Lambert and a furious Mourinho clashed on the touchline.
To add insult to injury, three minutes later, at the opposite end of the pitch, the Serbian raced into an offside position and headed home a Lampard free kick to give his team an undeserved lead.
Villa continued to fight as the game neared its end.
Weimann had a great chance to draw level in the 86th minute when he picked up a Benteke pass and struck on the half-volley. Unfortunately, Cech made a great save – before making an even better one to deny Agbonlahor in stoppage time.
The drama wasn’t over yet, however: Terry’s blatant handball as he attempted to block a header from Agbonlahor should have resulted in a penalty for the visiting side but Kevin Friend turned Foe once more, dismissing all calls for a penalty; he even went as far as to book Guzan for complaining – after the final whistle.