Chelsea secured a vital win against Aston Villa as the Blues race into a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
Jose Mourinho, who has never won at Villa Park in five previous attempts, had Hazard and Ivanovic to thank as it was sixth time lucky, with the double bonus that Manchester City dropped two points too.
It means Chelsea are firmly in the driving seat now, with closest rivals Manchester City suffering a mid-season crisis: out of both cups, with Barcelona to come in the Champions League, and a sizeable seven point gap away from the top of the table.
The hosts for today’s game was also in a spot of bother, with no Premier League goal scored all year. Chelsea were to give them a belated Christmas present, however.
But it was a fast start that put Chelsea on their way. Drogba’s punt forward to Oscar was hopeful but the Brazilian controlled and laid the ball off to his compatriot, Willian. He then found Hazard who, on the run, swept the ball home.
The grumbles were audible from the home fans but, to their side’s credit, they did not crumble.
Chelsea were patient — perhaps too patient — and Ramires had chances, as too Drogba.
The half-time team-talk by Paul Lambert clearly reinvigorated a side with how confidence as Okore equalised. It was only their 12th goal of the season but the relief across the home crowd was palpable.
With so much at stake for both sides, we were in for an end-to-end conclusion. Ivanovic struck sweetly for Chelsea and, as time passed, it proved to be the winner.
But this was not without some new and old faces, with Cuadrado making his debut, and Joe Cole and Scott Sinclair lining up for Aston Villa against their former side. The Chelsea defence, with Gary Cahill back, held firm and Chelsea march on.
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Man of the Match
BRANISLAV IVANOVIC: It’s easy to just go for the player who scores the winner, and whilst that is the case here for Ivanovic, the Serbian most definitely deserves it today. A resolute defensive showing as Aston Villa were determined to be a threat towards the end, but it was a precision goal any striker would be proud of, with such technique with his left foot to fire home into the top corner. 8/10
Mourinho was elated: “It is one more hurdle in the title race, but there are many more. It is possibly the only league in Europe where teams from the bottom can play against the top ones and not just make things difficult but win points. I like [that Man City lost] but that was not my concern today.”
Paul Lambert felt he could reflect positively from the performance: “We deserved something from the game, we played really well. We have top players. Our season will not be defined with what happened against Arsenal and Chelsea, it is about from now on in.”
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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