Chelsea returned to Premier League action by coming from behind to beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa and strengthen their bid for a top-four finish.
The Blues dominated the first half but fell behind when Kepa failed to hold Anwar El Ghazi’s shot and Kortney Hause was on hand to bundle in.
Chelsea fought back after the break and turned the game on its head with two goals in as many minutes.
First, substitute Christian Pulisic smashed Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross into the roof of the net at the far post before Olivier Giroud drove in from 15 yards with the help of a slight deflection.
The win means fourth-placed Chelsea restored their five-point advantage over Manchester United and Wolves, who are fifth and sixth respectively.
Aston Villa, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone, one point from safety after taking one point from their first two games back following the resumption of the Premier League.
Chelsea pick up from where they left off
The suspension of the season had perhaps come at a frustrating time for Chelsea. They had just beaten Liverpool 2-0 in the FA Cup fifth round and then thrashed Everton 4-0 in the league.
But, 105 days on from that win against the Toffees, Chelsea looked fresh and motivated from the outset against a Villa side fighting for survival.
The only concern, however, was their inability to turn chances into goals – particularly in the first half.
Mason Mount saw a powerful strike kept out by Villa keeper Orjan Nyland before Ruben Loftus-Cheek, making a welcome return to the side after a year out with injury, just failed to turn home a teasing ball across the face of goal.
It could have proved costly, particularly when Villa scored from only their second shot on target to take the lead.
In the end Chelsea got the job done but, with 19 attempts on goal, they should perhaps have won by a more comfortable margin.
The signing of Timo Werner for next season will hopefully address Chelsea’s struggles to make the most of their opportunities but for now, Frank Lampard will hope his current forwards will use the striker’s impending arrival as motivation to be more clinical in the end-of-season run-in.
A tough return but some hope for Villa
It has been a tough return to Premier League action for Aston Villa, who resumed their survival bid against two opponents fighting to secure European football next season.
They were fortunate to pick up a point against Sheffield United, with goalline technology failing to register a goal for the Blades.
But despite seeing their winless run in the Premier League extended to six games, there are some signs of encouragement for Villa.
They competed well against high-flying Sheffield United and against Chelsea they started with a good shape and discipline that initially served to frustrate their opponents, although seemingly lacked a Plan B and never looked like getting back into the game once they fell behind.
Jack Grealish has also continued to be an influential and dangerous presence in their team. He was involved in the move that led to their goal against Chelsea and if he can continue to shine in midfield, then Dean Smith’s side still have a fighting chance of survival.
Man of the match – Mason Mount (Chelsea)
Cesar’s rare double – the stats
- Aston Villa have now lost five Premier League games after scoring first this season, two more than any other side in the competition.
- Chelsea have won 10 of their last 11 Premier League matches against Aston Villa (L1), with Frank Lampard either appearing as a player or managing the Blues in six of those 10 wins.
- Aston Villa have failed to win any of their last 21 Premier League matches against teams starting the day in the top four (D4 L17), since a 1-0 win at home to Chelsea in March 2014.
- Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic has been directly involved in seven goals in his last eight away Premier League games (five goals, two assists).
- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has scored in each of his last seven games against Aston Villa in all competitions, netting nine goals in the process (eight for Arsenal, one for Chelsea).
- Aston Villa’s Kortney Hause’s opener against Chelsea was his first Premier League goal, meaning he has now scored in each of the top four divisions in English football, with today just his seventh league goal.
- Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta provided two assists in a single Premier League game for only the second time in his 263-game English top-flight career – also doing so versus Stoke in September 2017.
- Frank Lampard took charge of his 100th match in his managerial career, winning 46 of those 100 games in all competitions with current side Chelsea (22), and Derby County (24).
Aston Villa travel to Newcastle on Wednesday, 24 June (18:00 BST) while Chelsea host Manchester City on Thursday, 25 June (20:15).