Tammy Abraham reinforced his importance to Chelsea by scoring the opener and setting up the second on his return from injury as the Blues returned to winning ways against Aston Villa.
Abraham 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 in a volley.
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 a hip 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 22-year-old 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 Frank Lampard said before the match that Abraham was still suffering some pain in his hip, yet 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.
More to follow.