Chelsea show some style in beating Villa but still seek more ruthless streak at home
It had all threatened to be a bit of a love-in.
Before kick-off on Wednesday night against Aston Villa, Chelsea fans in the Lower Harding unfurled a giant blue banner in honour of John Terry – now with the visitors' coaching staff and back at the ground he played on for all those years with the distinction which guaranteed legendary status.
Villa fans sang hymns of praise to Tammy Abraham, who put in such a good shift for them last season, helping them to promotion.
There was even a respectful refusal to celebrate his 12th goal of the season by Abraham when he nodded in a delightfully judged chip into the box from Reece James.
The whole ground rose in homage to the striker when he came off 10 minutes from time – probably to protect the hip injury he picked up in Spain a week ago.
But luckily a bit of spikiness kicked in and there was enough devil in Chelsea to prevail. A win was more important than a few niceties.
They certainly needed the three points. Hidden behind the eulogies about their amazing run of away wins this season – seven in a row on the road before the visit to Man City – is the fact that at home they have not been that remarkable,
When you factor in the League Cup defeat to Man United, and the loss to Valencia in the Champions League, there had been as many defeats as wins for Chelsea at the Bridge before tonight’s victory over Villa. On Saturday, West Ham joined Liverpool as winners at the Bridge in the league.
The only wins so far on home soil have been against Brighton, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Grimsby in the League Cup, and there have also been some very ordinary performances against teams they might normally expect to beat in Leicester City and Sheffield United.
So, not quite the fortress of old – which is the minimum pre-requisite for any self-respecting side with top four aspirations.
But perhaps the brilliant fight back against Ajax and this high-tempo performance offers the blueprint which points the way towards better fortunes in west London.
Mason Mount’s blistering volley at the start of the second half put the Blues ahead for a second time after Trezeguet’s equaliser for Villa just before the interval and after that, Chelsea’s football flowed elegantly.
More goals should have followed. It is astonishing that they did not. Willian, more than once, Abraham, Cesar Azpilicueta and Christian Pulisic all came ridiculously close. The win should have been far more comfortable.
They will need to learn how to be more ruthless when they are this good. Frank Lampard will surely not have taken kindly to the high stress levels his team needlessly put him through.
But it is more good than bad and still heading in the right direction for the new Chelsea boss.