football

Chelsea vs Aston Villa result: Romelu Lukaku and Edouard Mendy star at either end in Blues win



The scoreline makes Chelsea’s victory over Aston Villa look routine but it was hard work for Thomas Tuchel’s side at Stamford Bridge. Villa took the game to their opponents for long periods.

One of Chelsea’s attributes under their German manager is that they cannot be allowed opportunities. They pounce on the slightest mistake. They can tear a team apart with genius and make sure any errors end in tears.

The genius came in the first half when Romelu Lukaku got behind the defence to score his first goal Premier League goal at Stamford Bridge. Yet the crucial moment in this entertaining game came in the 49th minute when Dean Smith’s defence made a series of mistakes that presented the excellent Mateo Kovacic with the second goal. No one can afford to allow the European champions such latitude.

Lukaku added his second from the edge of the box in the final moments but Villa will feel hard done by after conceding three goals. Their own blunders took the game away from them.

Tuchel has a fine squad and the addition of Saul Niguez on loan from Atletico Madrid as the transfer window closed was seen as another masterstroke from a club that combines a clever recruitment strategy with huge spending power. Sometimes managers can have too many options. Tuchel made six changes from the team that drew with Liverpool before the international break, including giving Saul his debut, and Chelsea struggled to find rhythm and coherence in the first half.

As expected, the home side poured forward and produced an early barrage. There was a flurry of corners and from one Ezri Konsa deflected the ball onto the bar.

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It was a lucky escape for Villa, who began to grow into the game, but they went behind after 15 minutes to a goal that was Chelsea at their most compelling.

Saul gave the ball to Kovacic in an unpromising position 25 yards from his own goal and just for a moment it looked like the Croat was in trouble. Under pressure, Kovacic relied on instinct to swerve away from John McGinn and, having cleared the initial press, the midfielder breezed past Jacob Ramsey. Now Kovacic was on the halfway line, the defence were retreating and Lukaku was making the sort of run that bamboozles centre backs. Kovacic curled the ball in front of the striker and crouched down like a snooker player to watch the path of the pass.

It was perfect.

Lukaku faked to shoot with his left, put Axel Tuanzebe to ground and switched inside to his right to score with ease.

Villa, perhaps realising that keeping things tight was never going to work against a team as dangerous as Chelsea, committed themselves to attack. Ollie Watkins caused havoc in the inside left channel and tested Edouard Mendy at the near post. The Villa forward had the chance to equalise when Saul dwelt on the ball and was robbed but Thiago Silva blocked Watkins’ shot when Mendy was beaten and helpless. By the half-hour mark the visiting side were on top.

It took a superb double save from Mendy to maintain the lead. First the goalkeeper palmed out a shot from Tyrone Mings and then he clawed away a mishit effort from Konsa.

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Smith’s side were having particular success in the space between Trevoh Chalobah and Thiago. Saul struggled to make an impact. McGinn clattered the Spaniard early and Watkins raced away from him into the area.

Villa flooded the midfield and Hakim Ziyech was a bit slow to drop in and provide help. Douglas Luiz was the dominant force in the central areas as half time loomed.

(AFP via Getty Images)

Tuchel was unhappy. During the break he conducted an intense conversation with Jorginho and the 29-year-old replaced the unhappy Saul. The Spaniard will not remember his debut in English football with much fondness but he will have many better days once he adjusts to a new league and a new team.

It was not Jorginho that changed the game, though, it was an error by the Villa defence. Tuanzebe seemed to have won a tussle with Lukaku on the right but his pass inside to Mings was overhit. The Villa captain was being chased down by Kovacic and his first instinct was to play the ball back to Jed Steer. The backpass was weak and the goalkeeper was slow off his line, leaving an inviting situation for Kovacic. The midfielder followed through with his run and was presented with an easy opportunity to score. The match was effectively over.

Villa spent plenty of time in the Chelsea area but they lacked the killer instinct of their opponents. Danny Ings was anonymous and was eventually substituted. Watkins faded as the game went on. Jorginho, after much pointing and shouting, organised the home midfield and Tuchel’s team eased to their victory. Lukaku’s superb shot in stoppage time but a cap on the result and the message was clear. Do not, under any circumstances, give Chelsea an inch. They will punish you. Badly.



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