Chelsea manager Frank Lampard praised striker Tammy Abraham’s growing influence as the Blues rediscovered their winning touch against Aston Villa.
Abraham reinforced his importance to Lampard’s side, scoring the opener and setting up the second on his return from injury in Chelsea’s 2-1 Premier League victory at Stamford Bridge.
The 22-year-old England international missed the Blues’ home defeat by West Ham with a hip injury and put them ahead against Villa with a firm header from Reece James’ cross.
After Villa equalised against the run of play when Trezeguet bundled in, Chelsea regained the lead shortly after the restart when Abraham neatly chested Willian’s cross into the path of Mason Mount who thumped home a volley.
“Tammy is a personality that’s growing in our dressing room every day with his enthusiasm and his will to win,” said Lampard.
“He is a striker that’s near the top of the goalscoring charts in the league, he’s showing his all-round game, stretches defences and he starts our press.
“And of course if a player’s on such a good run it’s normal that if they go out of the team that you can miss them, and he came straight back in as he left off.”
Chelsea, like they did in the first half before Trezeguet’s leveller, dominated possession and territory as they looked to increase their advantage.
Abraham twice came close to adding a third against the club he helped fire to promotion last season, while Willian – one of Chelsea’s other star performers – hit the post with an exquisite free-kick.
The Blues ended a run of back-to-back defeats with a victory which helps them consolidate fourth place, moving them six points clear of nearest rivals Wolves, while narrowing the gap on third-placed Manchester City to three points.
Villa, who have won just once on the road this season, remain in 15th place, a point above the relegation zone after Southampton’s win.
Abraham’s return lifts Chelsea
Following a tough week in which Premier League defeats by Manchester City and West Ham came either side of a Champions League draw at Valencia, Chelsea were looking to avoid three top-flight defeats in a row for the first time in four years.
They did that against a toothless Villa side, albeit with a tighter margin of victory than their performance deserved.
Mount’s stunning finish proved the difference but, with a refreshed Blues line-up featuring five changes from Saturday’s defeat having 25 attempts at goal, they should have been out of sight.
While England attacking midfielder Mount will take the plaudits for the winner, it was Abraham’s return from injury which was the real catalyst for change.
The Blues had been wasteful against West Ham and Abraham provided a clinical edge after holding his line to head in from 12 yards.
It was a richly deserved lead for the home side with Villa rarely having ventured into the Chelsea box, but it was greeted with muted celebrations from the striker, who scored 25 league goals in 38 Championship matches for Villa in his season-long loan.
“I said the club will always be close to my heart, last season was a long, hard season so I pay all my respects to them,” he said afterwards.
Blues boss Lampard said before the match that Abraham was still suffering some pain in his hip, yet he worked tirelessly throughout in a physical battle against muscular Villa centre-backs Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa.
After showing exceptional awareness and composure to tee up Mount’s winner, he was unfortunate not to score another himself – clipping wide of the left-hand post and being hustled out of a close-range chance by Mings – before departing to a standing ovation with seven minutes left.
Abraham looked to walk off gingerly after taking a knock a few moments earlier, although Lampard played down any injury concerns.
Battling Villa fall short again
Villa have performed admirably against the Premier League’s leading lights since returning to the top flight, without earning the rewards their performances have merited.
Dean Smith’s side opened the scoring in four of their five matches against established top-six opponents this season, pushing Tottenham, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United close, with only defending champions Manchester City beating them with relative comfort.
Although these displays provided plenty of encouragement, Villa earned a solitary point.
At Stamford Bridge, they again showed the basic prerequisites of hard work and organisation, but were unable to stretch Chelsea as their forays into the opposition half were limited.
A quick-thinking pass from skipper Jack Grealish, who Smith complained afterwards needs more protection from referees, was key in the attack which led to Villa’s equaliser, allowing Ahmed Elmohamady to cross to Trezeguet who bundled in at the second attempt.
Other than that, Villa rarely threatened as they managed just three shots on target in the whole match, although Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was required to deny Douglas Luiz what would have been an undeserved equaliser late on.
“We’re not far away, I don’t want to keep using the word ‘competitive’, we can be as good as these teams, we showed that in pockets,” Smith said.
“We need to be more consistent in what we do and braver on the ball.”
Man of the match – N’Golo Kante (Chelsea)
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard:
“I thought we were great. I’m pleased because that was us again, we had a blip against West Ham and today we were back.
“Our character at half-time was important and we carried off where we left off. The disappointment of the day is we didn’t score two or three.
“Villa are stubborn, have picked up results on the road and you can see why. They have good players and are well organised.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith:
“I thought it was a fair result, the better team won.
“We had pockets of play throughout the game but not enough relentless pressure. We didn’t start either half well and they put us under pressure. We gave the ball away too cheaply, but got back into the game and when we showed a bit of belief we showed we could give them problems.
“They had the initiative, we knew they would start well after losing a London derby on Saturday.
“You don’t get much from officials here and I wasn’t happy with their performance tonight. Jack Grealish must have been the most-fouled player on the pitch, there were five or six not given.”
Chelsea continue to dominate Villa – the stats
- Chelsea have lost just one of their last 56 Premier League home games against newly promoted teams, winning 45 and drawing 10.
- Aston Villa have picked up just one point from their last 42 available in away games against sides starting the day in the top four.
- Chelsea have won nine of their last 10 Premier League meetings with Aston Villa, losing the other in March 2014.
- Chelsea have won five consecutive home league games against Aston Villa for the first time in their history.
- Tammy Abraham has scored 11 goals in 14 Premier League appearances this season – the only Chelsea players to score more in their first 14 appearances in a single Premier League season are Diego Costa (12) in 2014-15 and Nicolas Anelka (12) in 2008-09.
- Only Jamie Vardy (17) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than Abraham (14 – 11 goals, 3 assists).
- Trezeguet is the first Aston Villa player to score in three consecutive Premier League starts since Tom Cleverley in May 2015.
- Trezeguet’s goal, assisted by Ahmed Elmohamady, is the first Premier League goal to be scored and assisted by Egyptian players.
Chelsea go back on the road with a trip to struggling Everton on Saturday (12:30 GMT), before Villa host second-placed Leicester City on Sunday (14:00).