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Aston Villa 2-4 Chelsea - views from the stands


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Fernando Torres ended his barren spell in the Premier League with his first goal since September, whilst a Daniel Sturridge strike and two Branislav Ivanovic goals gave Chelsea a deserved and comfortable victory over Aston Villa.

The Blues took just nine minutes to open the scoring as Sturridge rifled home for the first time in nine matches, before Ivanovic doubled the lead early in the second half as he poked home from Juan Mata's corner. After Villa replied through James Collins and Eric Lichaj to inexplicably bring the game back to 2-2 with a little over ten minutes remaining, but Chelsea - the dominant side for the majority of the encounter - saw their quality prevail as first Torres flicked on Florent Malouda's corner for Ivanovic to convert, before the Spaniard himself blasted in from the edge of the area for his seventh of the season.

It was an emotional day at Villa Park, with the fixture being played the day after the hosts' captain Stilyan Petrov was diagnosed with leukaemia. The Bulgarian was present at the ground and was teary-eyed as supporters from both sides sang his name and gave him a rousing reception in the 19th minute - and there was an equal outpouring of emotion for the visiting supporters, who roared in delight at the sight of Fernando Torres' first goal since September, when he netted against Swansea.

176525hp2.jpgPositive results in Aston have been few and far-between for Chelsea, but in a fixture that has historically been evenly-shared between the two sides - this win being Chelsea's 154th victory in competitive matches against the Villa. The home side can boast 156.

Yet the ramifications of this result are clear - the fifth-placed Londoners have closed the gap on third-placed Arsenal to five points with a trip to the Emirates still to come, and the Blues have pulled clear of nearest rivals Newcastle, who host Liverpool on Sunday. A more immediate effect of this match is an injury to David Luiz, who seems certain to miss Wednesday's reverse fixture against SL Benfica.

A trademark feature here on TalkChelsea looks at the best analysis offered from our members - and remember, you can have your say as well! Here we reflect on the performance and the match's key incidents.

Great win at 2-2 heads could have sunk, but stayed positive got the 3 points !!!!!!

Chuffed! Was absolutely furious when they equalised - you could see it coming with how casually we were playing. But then we stepped it a couple of notches and got a deserved win. Ivan you fucking ledge!

I think you have both made an important point or two here. As soon as Villa pulled one back, with the emotion of Petrov being diagnosed with leukaemia, the Villa crowd - subdued for much of the match - were suddenly vociferous, and it inspired a make-shift Villa side to crank it up a gear or two. The moment they equalised, I think we all had flashbacks of the 3-3 and 4-4 draws at Stamford Bridge in recent years. They certainly punished our complacency, and if we adopt the same sort of casual play against Benfica on Wednesday then we will be knocked out of Europe; simple enough. Thankfully, I think the moment 'got' to Villa a little too much, and quality ultimately prevailed. We deserved the three points but I think you have to also give a lot of credit to our hosts. Injury hit and then bowled over by the news about Petrov, they still were able to compete and though they created few great chances, they troubled us from set plays in particular and they contributed to a fabulous advertisement for the Premier League. It was a performance full of vigour and heart from both sides, and it made for a roller-coaster of a game and a truly brilliant match. Those of us that made the journey to Birmingham certainly got our money's worth!

Yes! We made it more difficult than it should have been but credit to the lads, after a tough away game in Europe to go away to Villa Park and win is a great result and puts a lot of pressure on Spurs tomorrow, making it all the better is QPR beating Arsenal.

What I did see though was another very encouraging Torres performance, his link up play is quality, that flick for Mata in the first half made my jaw drop. I also thought Mata was excellent, the right decision not to rest him it turns out.

In the context of the recent fixture congestion, it is indeed a very good result - especially at a ground we have historically been very poor at. Spurs have no easy task in defeating high-flying Swansea, and whilst I do expect them to eventually get a result, QPR beating Arsenal suddenly gives us an opportunity to overhaul the Gunners in the race for fourth.

As for Torres, again he was the shining light up front. Mata did have a good game at times but again he looked very fatigued. His industry has never been great but in comparison to earlier in the season, his work rate has noticeably dropped. As for Torres, he is playing with as much confidence as any other player in the Premier League at the moment. His return in terms of goalscoring has been poor this season, but he seems to have found a new lease of life under di Matteo, and next season we could see him return to his best with some better service. His all-round game has improved since joining Chelsea, I feel. He was always a brilliant player at Liverpool, but he seems to have honed his game into more a creative role; as much as a second striker, in all respects. His vision is outstanding and though he needs to improve his finishing (his goal, admittedly, was brilliant, but he should have buried the earlier chance when one-on-one with Given), I think his struggle to score goals has helped his team game. Furthermore he seems to have bulked up a little, but most importantly his body language is far more encouraging. Not once did I see him moan or slouch; he seems revitalised and eager to support his team-mates, which is more like the Torres we expect to see.

What a weird, exhilarating, day of football. Good results imo, Arsenal drop points, City drop points. If Liverpool & Tottenham drop points tomorrow it'll be the perfect weekend of football :D

Happy for Torres, he deserved a goal today. Happy for Sturridge finding the net again, but BIG question marks over defending today!

I'm glad you raised a point on our defensive display. For the most part, it was good. We had players closing down the ball carrier, and marking for set-pieces was very good. It was in open play where we struggled. Villa were able to exploit the right flank an awful lot yesterday; the absence of Ramires on that side was keenly felt. It was added to by the introduction of Marc Albrighton, who, for some ridiculous reason, is not a starter under McCleish. As soon as he came on, Villa were getting forward more often and with occasional joy. My concern is the obvious instruction going to our full-backs from the coaching staff, because both Cole and Ivanovic have developed habits of standing off their man. Instead of closing down the cross they are happy for it to come in, and that saw us punished for Lichaj's goal which brought the game back for 2-2. In fact that entire goal was created through our own ill-discipline; Mikel lost the ball, Ivanovic stood off Albrighton and Ashley Cole failed to clear the resultant cross, allowing the American to tap home. It was disappointing from a defensive perspective today, and a similar sloppy showing next week could punish us against Benfica. It is an area for concern, especially now with the news of Luiz' injury.

Albrighton seems like one [a potential target] too. He's one of the very few English talents that looks to have a real potential in him IMO.

I've highlighted this post largely for reasons made above. The game changed when this young man came on. He has excellent ball retention skills, but it is his crossing that impressed me most. Villa had a number of corners but they were all poor deliveries; and in general their supply from out wide was shockingly bad. Then Albrighton came on and caused us all sorts of problems. He is a cracking young player, and I think he would be a very good option in the summer. We need squad players, and it is obvious that he is little more than a bench-warmer at Villa despite being one of their most promising young talents. McCleish obviously prefers his compatriot Barry Bannan, who was utterly useless out wide yesterday. It was the equivalent of us putting Mikel on the right and asking him to play as a winger. Albrighton would possibly come 'on the cheap', and with ethnic quotas and financial regulations soon to come into play in regards to Champions League qualification, we could definitely do a lot worse than this young man, who could revel at a bigger club with better players around him, I feel.

Torres' goal was all about confidence. He hit it so early and was a throwback to his Liverpool days. He has always been what I would call an 'instinct' finisher, and he has suffered for that due to a lack of confidence meaning he would take an extra touch or two. Robbie is doing us a massive favour whether he stays or goes because if we can get another 4-5 goals out of Torres this season then I think he is earmarked as the main striker for us next season with Drogba seemingly destined to leave.

What impressed me perhaps even more though was his assist for Brana's second. Watch on the replays his movement and determination to lose his marker and then get in front of the first defender to flick the ball on. His all round game at the moment is excellent, and the more dangerous he looks around the opposition penalty box, the more complete striker we have leading the line.

This perfectly sums up Torres' contribution not just today, but over the last half-dozen matches. He seems a different player. I was not at all surprised when I saw him score from that position, but a couple of months back he'd certainly have tried squaring to Malouda. It was a finish of absolute quality - shooting across the goalkeeper, hard and low, is a very difficult thing to achieve when running at that speed, but he did it with aplomb.

Thank god we won, We almost stuffed it up at the end...Again! We we were pretty comfortable in the Match, until it got to 2-0, from then on we just sort of let the game drift on. This is a major area we need to work on, we need to be looking and pressing on for goals the entire 90 mins. That's what separates the good teams from the great, ruthless teams. The 2nd Aston Villa goal, IMO, was poor defending by Ashley Cole. 1st Aston Villa goal was also laughable, 3 Chelsea players jumped for the ball and none of them got a touch on it.

This again relates to our poor defending at times yesterday. The point I want to focus on mainly here is your comment on pressing and playing for the entirety of the game. This is something that all Chelsea teams have failed to do since the Mourinho days. Under José, you would have felt that at 2-0, it was game, set and match. However Villa played with considerable confidence considering how badly-hit by injury they were, which is to their credit. However it is not necessarily in the defence that we saw the root cause of some of our problems at the back.

Of course, individual positional play equates to a large proportion of defensive responsibility, and as I have already said, the full-backs simply are not quick enough to close down. But there is also an onus on the forwards to get back and 'double up' on the wide player, as Ramires and Essien so often do. With both of them missing today, the full-backs became isolated. I was also concerned by how deep we were defending free-kicks and set-plays. Terry needs to push his line up by a good six or seven yards. Overall there is a lot for the coaches to work on, because I feel our new-found attacking quality is coming at the expense of our defensive solidarity.

Finding the right balance between attack and defence has been very difficult this season. We have gone through periods of scoring a bucketful of goals and leaking them at the other end, to struggling in attack and being miserly in defence. Whether this is down to personnel or coaching; I'm not sure, but we certainly can be thankful to the arrival of Gary Cahill who was excellent after he came on; one early slip aside.

Man City - Arsenal next week. Hope City get 3 points. the week after, Arsenal - Chelsea, we get 3 points and we are above them. Come on CHELSEA!!!

The race for fourth is a lot more interesting than the title race, isn't it?! There are so many permutations and combinations, but what it boils down to is the necessity to beat Arsenal at the Emirates. We have to. If we fail to do so, then it is Europa League mediocrity next season for Chelsea Football Club.

Remember you can have your say on today's game by checking out the post-match thread - discuss the game, analyse the key moments and vote for your man of the match! You can do that by clicking HERE.

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