Brazil-born trio to the fore in Blues cruise: how Stats Zone saw Chelsea 3-0 Aston Villa
Andre Schurrle had spoken about getting revenge against Villa, whose 1-0 win against the Blues back in March proved one of several costly slip-ups in Chelsea's quest for Premier League glory. "We owe them one," he said in the run-up to Saturday's game. "It was a battle. After the match, everyone was down, no-one spoke. It was a hard defeat as we were going for the title."
And revenge is what the Blues got, Oscar's early goal setting them on their way to a fifth league win in six outings to maintain their three-point lead atop the table from Southampton.
"I'm happy," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said afterwards. "We had a couple of important chances in the first half to score again, but I think everything was under control. The team were very solid and kept control of the game all the time. Even when it was 1-0, I don’t remember feeling fear, scared or uncomfortable. The second and third goals obviously killed the game but overall it was a very good performance.
"In the Premier League we have to get points every game. At home, if it’s possible you don’t want to lose many points during the season because that’s an important factor in the table. We are fine; we’ve played six matches, we won all three at home playing well and scoring goals, we are happy with what we’re doing."
Both sides made one change from their last league outings; Chelsea replacing the injured Ramires with Oscar, while Ashley Westwood returned to the midfield after illness. Carlos Sanchez made way.
And it was Oscar who got the hosts off to the perfect start. Branislav Ivanovic's defence-splitting ball released Willian, and although the former Shakhtar Donetsk attacker's effort was saved by Brad Guzan, his compatriot was on hand to turn in the rebound from close range.
Villa, 1-0 winners in their previous two away trips at Stoke and Liverpool, started the game positively, enjoying more possession and completing more passes in the attacking third in the opening 10 minutes.
But they were forced further and further back as the first half progressed and had to stay disciplined off the ball as Chelsea continued to press and probe.
In a 10-minute spell, Chelsea completed 75 passes to Villa's 10, a margin which had widened by the break. What was letting Mourinho's men down was their finishing.
Scorer Oscar was one of Chelsea's chief tormentors during the first 45 minutes. An oft-used outlet on the left flank, he set up 3 chances for team-mates and succeeded with both of his take-ons as Villa, just about, headed in for half-time oranges with just a one-goal deficit to mull over.
"He played well against Bolton, I decided to play him again as I think he needs the confidence that comes with playing matches, and his performance was good," said Mourinho.
"He was in important areas in our game, the connection between him and Matic and Fabregas was good, the connection between him and the three attacking players was also good."
Supporters expecting to see the procession continue after the interval were left disappointed as, like in the first half, the visitors began brightly. Fabian Delph, who completed a game-high 6/6 take-ons, spanked a 25-yarder wide, before Nathan Baker had the Shed End panicking as his header hit the roof of the net.
But the tension was eased on the hour-mark, Cesar Azpilicueta crossing for Diego Costa to head home his eighth goal in six league games, and with that Villa's race was run.
"I thought we gave a right good account of ourselves," Paul Lambert reflected at full-time. "We looked solid enough. We were coming up against a team who, in my opinion, will be really close to winning the league and the Champions League. "I can't fault the lads for the way they played.
"We had one or two chances here. And when you come to places like this and you get chances you've got to score. Chelsea scored in the second half when we were on top."
Costa has scored 8 goals in his first 6 Premier League appearances, a figure only Micky Quinn (10) can top in the competition’s history, something Mourinho unsurprisingly wasn't too clued up on.
"Niall Quinn," he quipped. "He is my generation, not Micky Quinn."
Oscar was denied his second and Chelsea's third minutes later by Aly Cissokho's last-ditch clearance. But the former Liverpool full-back was not so lucky 10 minutes from time. Costa twisted and turned before firing goalwards. Guzan saved but the ball ricocheted off Cissokho and into the path of Willian to tap home.
The Blues were far more clinical after half-time, hitting the target with 5 of their 7 second half efforts before Willian's late, wild thwack spoiled the graphic (below).
By the end, Chelsea had completed more than 200 passes in the attacking third of the pitch (compared to Villa's 44) with Cesc Fabregas in full-on metronome mode.
In midweek, Xabi Alonso completed more passes than any other player across Europe's top five leagues in Bayern Munich's 4-0 win over Paderborn, and Cesc finished the afternoon just 8 passes shy of his Spanish team-mate as well as making a game-high 8 ball recoveries.
Chelsea march on to a midweek trip to Sporting Lisbon in Europe before entertaining Arsenal next Sunday; an opponent who also dispatched Villa by three goals to nil a week ago.
"If you come away with your confidence still intact, it's half the battle," said Lambert. "We are in a run of games where it's really tough but we've certainly played well enough. If someone had said to me we'd take three points from Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea I'd have taken it."
Facts and figures
- Oscar’s goal was the first that Villa have conceded on the road in the league all campaign.
- Chelsea have scored 30 goals in their last 8 Premier League home games against Villa.
- Villa have attempted just 9 shots on target in 6 league games this season; fewer than any other side.
- Diego Costa has had 15 shots on target in 6 games this term; he had 3 shots on target more than Villa today (Costa had 4, Villa had 1).
- 13 of the 16 points (from 10 games) that Mourinho has taken against Villa in the Premier League have come at Stamford Bridge.
- Mourinho’s side have kept 9 clean sheets in their last 11 Premier League home games.