Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea: Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic seal comeback for Frank Lampard’s men to bolster Champions League hopes.
Frank Lampard’s side fought back after Kortney Hause had opened the scoring for the relegation-threatened Villains to earn all three points on their return to Premier League action, opening up a five-point cushion over fifth-placed Manchester United.
Despite the quick turnaround after a lengthy layoff, Dean Smith stuck with the same XI that had started the rather fortuitous draw against Sheffield United on Wednesday.
Lampard, meanwhile, handed a first start of the season to the fit-again Ruben Loftus-Cheek, while Giroud was preferred to Tammy Abraham up front and N’Golo Kante was deployed in his favoured defensive midfield position.
The Blues dominated the first half with Mason Mount coming closest to opening the scoring; first by testing Orjan Nyland with a rasping strike from the edge of the box, and then by steering a low ball across the face of goal that Loftus-Cheek came within inches of turning home.
There had been occasional warnings at the other end, with John McGinn glancing a header wide and Anwar El Ghazi keeping Kepa Arrizabalaga alert with a long-range effort, but when the hosts took the lead on the stroke of half-time it was firmly against the run of play.
- Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United: Magpies run riot against 10-man
- Champions League and Europa League to resume in August
Jack Grealish teased on the right, laying off to Douglas Luiz, who was allowed too much time to deliver an excellent cross and though Kepa once again denied El Ghazi, the visitors failed to clear and Hause reacted first to bundle in.
Chelsea again enjoyed all the possession and territory after the restart, but it took until the hour mark for them to grab a deserved leveller as Pulisic – just on as part of a double substitution by Lampard – met Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross at the far post and steered it beyond Nyland.
Within moments they had a second, this time set-up by the other full-back, Marcos Alonso, who found Giroud with a smart cut-back, and the Frenchman swivelled to find the net with the help of a slight deflection.
Hause went nearest to stealing a point for Villa, glancing Conor Hourihane’s free-kick just beyond the far post, but the defeat means Smith’s men remain 19th, a point from safety ahead of next week’s trip to Newcastle.