By Brad Smith
Chelsea resisted a spirited fightback from the home side to win a 6 goal thriller at Villa Park this afternoon.
Sturridge got the ball rolling after 9 minutes, and when Ivanovic prodded home in the 51st minute, it seemed as though the away side would cruise to victory.
However, 2 goals in 5 minutes got Villa back on level terms, first Collins, and then Lichaj scored from close range.
The Londoners kept their heads up however, and an Ivanovic second, and Fernando Torres strike, took all 3 points back to London, and kept them well in the race for Champions League spots.
With Aston Villa’s injury problems, most notably Stylian Petrov, who was diagnosed with leukaemia on Friday, they had a very experimental side out, but not one Chelsea could take for granted.
The opposition players wore “Petrov 19” shirts pre-match, as a tribute to the Villa captain, and joined in a round of applause in the 19th minute with the home crowd.
However, by this time, they were already one-nil up. A good move resulted in Torres having an effort saved by the keeper, only for Sturridge to finish from close range.
The pressure was continuous on Shay Givens goal, Mata struck the post, and Torres again went close, and the visitors tried to extend their lead.
Half time came, and the only criticism of the away side is that they weren’t further ahead. David Luiz was replaced by Cahill, as he seemed to have tweaked an injury in his right leg.
It didn’t take long for Chelsea to extend their advantage though, as Ivanovic prodded home from a corner, an area that the home side had been poor from all season. In fact they had conceded the most, and scored the least from them.
Those thinking that was game set and match, would be cruelly mistaken. Chelsea seemed to fall asleep at the wrong time, as James Collins powered home a header, and then American Eric Lichaj tapped home from a yard to turn the game on its head.
The crowd side we’re on their feet, and the atmosphere was rocking. However, the Midlands side we’re brought back down to earth, as Ivanovic scored his second of the game, to put the Londoners ahead again.
Alex McLeish’s side threw the kitchen sink at the Chelsea area, but they remained firm, and a problem on the counter attack. That would be the killer blow, as in injury time, Fernando Torres smashed home his first league goal in 1052 minutes to end any hopes for the home side.
The win leaves Chelsea 2 points behind Tottenham, who play Swansea tomorrow, and the home team now very precariously above the drop zone, with teams winning around them.