It’s never boring being a Chelsea supporter. Rarely do Chelsea do things the easy way. But all that matters is that the job was done. Chelsea saw off a late rally by Aston Villa with a rally of their own, to atone for late complacencies and put right the scoreline for early dominance. Sturridge had given Chelsea the lead within ten minutes, with Ivanovic doubling the scoreline five minutes after the break. The walk-in-the-park atmosphere changed with Collins grabbed one back, before the away end were stunned into silence when Lichaj equalised. But fear not. Ivanovic scored again, before Torres grabbed his first Premier League goal in six months in stoppage time. Easy.
Pre-match, the stats were ominous. Chelsea had only won 35% of their last 20 away games, and combining that with the fact that Chelsea had only won once in thirteen occasions at Villa Park, there was every right for the away crowd to feel nervous.
Three changes were made from the side that started in Portugal mid-week, Ivanovic recovered from a thigh injury, whilst Lampard came in place of another injured player, Raul Meireles. Drogba suffered a knock too, so Torres retained his place.
Against a relatively weak Aston Villa side, there was no better time than now to put the records straight. And Torres nearly did inside six minutes, when he latched onto a fabulous Luiz ball, over both their centre-backs, but Torres could only fire at Given.
But Chelsea did not have to wait long. Sturridge scored his 10th Premier League goal of the season, the first English striker to reach ten in a season for Chelsea since Paul Furlong way back in 1994-1995, in the ninth minute. Neat work from Cole found Mata, whose lay-off found Torres. His shot was charged down by Warnock, but Sturridge was there to tuck home.
Agbonlahor nearly equalised, but his shot hit the side-netting. His blushes at missing was spared anyway by the linesman’s flag.
Then Chelsea hit the post through Mata. The front trio combined well, with Kalou in some action, but as Torres fed Mata, the creative winger could only hit the post.
Cech was soon to be tested for the first time this match, when he made a fantastic save from Agbonlahor, diverting the ball over after a Sturridge mistake. Roberto Di Matteo was then forced to make a substitution before the break, Cahill coming on for the injured Luiz.
But Chelsea continued where they left off, as did sloppy Villa. Torres and Cole combined well and from a resulting corner by Mata, the returning Serbian Ivanovic was able to stab home his third goal of the season: 2-0 and a slight cushion.
Ramires came on for Kalou to inject some energy into a tiring side, with Sturridge moving to the left. But Chelsea were comfortable. Aston Villa enjoyed possession without making many penetrating moves. Another Chelsea substitution was made: Malouda coming on for a fatiguing Mata, with one eye on the return leg against Benfica mid-week.
But this match was not done yet. Chelsea could have paid severely for complacency. Collins headed home from a Lichaj throw-in: deficit halved.
Chelsea had to be careful now, but were not. Two minutes later, provider turned equaliser. Albrighton got past a hapless Cole, and Lichaj was on the end of it. The home crowd were clearly galvanised. Chelsea fans were furious, fearing an AVB-style capitulation. Some fans even had the cheek to tweet “RDM OUT”.
But then Aston Villa got complacent. Almost immediately from the restart, Ivanovic doubled his tally for the afternoon, heading home from a near-identical position to his first goal. Villa did not learn, and how they were to pay themselves.
Villa were getting desperate now. For all they hard work, they wanted a second equalising goal of the afternoon. But with them pouring forward, there were gaps, duly exploited by Sturridge and Torres. To the credit of the former man, much-criticised for being selfish, he fed Torres well, and the Spaniard drilled home: 4-2.
It was a tighter match than the scoreline suggested. Chelsea’s best result at Villa Park since 1999. As for Torres, the man has three goals and 5 assists in his last 4 starts. 4-2. Three points. And that’s all that matters.