Substitute Romelu Lukaku inspired Chelsea by beating Aston Villa 3-1 in a comeback at Villa Park.
Reece James’ own goal in the first half had given Villa the lead, but Jorginho converted a penalty shortly after Matty Cash’s foul before Lukaku turned the game off the bench.
He gave Chelsea the lead within 11 minutes of his introduction and then broke into the final to win another penalty which was once again scored by Jorginho.
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (5), Konsa (6), Mings (5), Targett (7), Luiz (6), Sanson (6), Ramsey (7), Buendia (6), Ings (6), Watkins (7)
Subtitles: Traore (6), Chukwuemeka (7), El Ghazi (6).
Chelsea: Mendy (5), James (6), Rudiger (7), Silva (7), Chalobah (6), Alonso (6), Jorginho (8), Kante (7), Monte (6), Pulisic (7), Hudson-Odoi (7)
Subtitles: Lukaku (8), Christensen (7), Kovacic (7).
Man of the match: Romelu Lukaku
Villa boss Steven Gerrard was missing after testing positive at Covid-19, but Thomas Tuchel’s presence was definitely felt with that bold half-time replacement, removing Trevor Chalobah to bring in his striker.
The attacking substitution earned the three points and ensured Chelsea end the day level on points with Liverpool, but still six points behind leaders Manchester City.
How Chelsea won
City’s emphatic 6-3 win over Leicester City earlier in the day had opened the gap over Chelsea to nine points at kick-off, a string of draws that had undermined their title streak.
Villa seemed to want his chances from the start, starting brilliantly as Chelsea struggled to find space behind, with a cross-shot from Mason Mount as their best opening opening.
Villa made two changes from the side that beat Norwich a week and a half ago: Ashley Young and John McGinn were out of the squad, replaced by Morgan Sanson and Danny Ings.
There were also only two changes for Chelsea from 0-0 against Wolves last weekend: Jorginho and Callum Hudson-Odoi joined, replacing Hakim Ziyech and Cesar Azpilicueta. Romelu Lukaku was only good enough for the bench.
The home side were rewarded for the start of the feat in an unusual way when Matt Targett’s cross was grazed by James’s head, passing goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
The Frenchman probably should have done better, taking the ball with both hands when one was enough, but Chelsea quickly found themselves tied after a mistake on the other end.
Callum Hudson-Odoi sneaked in behind Cash who rushed to catch the ball and caught the man. The full-back had his head in his hands almost before the referee pointed to the spot.
Emi Martinez attempted to interrupt the preparation of Jorginho’s penalty and received a yellow card for his antics, but the Chelsea midfielder sent him the wrong way with his football.
It was the fifth penalty in six games for Jorginho, Chelsea’s top scorer last season and that, but the attacking goals were the problem and Lukaku’s introduction solved it immediately.
Hiring him for Chalobah at half-time was a statement of intent and Lukaku, who hasn’t started a Premier League match since October, quickly altered the momentum of the game.
His clever movement allowed him to evade Tyrone Mings and beat the Villa captain with a cross from the left of Callum Hudson-Odoi, nodding behind Martinez on the net.
Suddenly, Chelsea had a focal point and Mount should have doubled the lead in minutes, unusually dragging his shot to the side of the near post after beating Martinez.
It proved not costly with Villa unable to generate any offensive pressure on Chelsea’s defense. Mendy didn’t make his first save until the end of the match and it was easy.
Jorginho had the final say with his second penalty of the match, but only after Lukaku emphasized his impact by winning it – breaking in before being dragged to the ground by Ezri Konsa.
He may have returned just in time to make Chelsea dream Chelsea.
Analysis: Lukaku’s key role in Chelsea’s victory
Tyrone Mings had looked comfortable for much of the first half, but that changed with the arrival of Lukaku. Christian Pulisic had drifted away. Lukaku got on Mings.
He passed it in a minute, leaving the captain of the Villa on deck. His movement was too much for Mings for the second goal, making sure he got to the ball first.
There was a yellow card for Mings not long after, who looked almost exasperated as he pulled Lukaku’s shirt, unable to get close to the ball given the attacker’s shot.
But there was also intelligence in his game, selflessly giving Mateo Kovacic to frame Callum Hudson-Odoi for a good chance at the end.
And then there was the pace, running away from Matt Targett and Ezri Konsa to win Chelsea’s second penalty. In 45 minutes he showed everything one would want in a striker.
And all that Chelsea lacked.
What the managers said …
Aston Villa assistant Gary McAllister on Sky Sport: “Looking at the result, I think it flatters Chelsea a little bit. They have very good players. Romelu Lukaku made a difference. I felt we played good football and kept the ball away from our goal, but then they made the changes. , and they came out on top.
“In the game phases I thought that sometimes we were better in ball possession, but sometimes the wrong decision was made with the final pass. We started the second half very slowly and sank a little, thus losing that goal with one stroke. Lukaku headed in. We tried to play with intensity and make passes.
“We know it is very important to take control of football against a quality team like Chelsea. We have played against City, Liverpool and Chelsea in recent weeks and we have had a chance to get a glimpse of the elite teams and it is encouraging that we have competed very well. A bit of identity is starting to appear. “
- Aston Villa have lost seven Premier League games after scoring first in 2021, the most united of any team in a single year.
- Chelsea have lost only one of their last 13 Premier League games, scoring eight wins.
- Since Thomas Tuchel’s first bench game in January, Chelsea have lost fewer Premier League games than any other team (5), while only Manchester City (92) have won more points than the Blues in this period (79).
- Jorginho has scored 10 penalties since Tuchel took the lead, more than any other club in this period.
- Eighty-nine percent of Jorginho’s Premier League goals for Chelsea were from a penalty spot (17/19), the highest ratio of anyone to score 10+ goals in the competition’s history.
- Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku has scored nine goals in 10 Premier League appearances against Aston Villa.
Live Renault Super Sunday
Sunday 2 January 13:00
Chelsea will host Brighton in the Premier League on Wednesday night at 7.30pm, while Villa’s next game is at Brentford on January 2, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 2pm, after their clash in Leeds on December 28 has been postponed to because of the Covid positives in the Leeds team.