Chelsea saw off Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge to claim a first league win in close to a month. A strike from Diego Costa and an Alan Hutton own goal helped the Blues to victory against the strugglers. That win has lifted the champions up to 11th in the table, six points shy of fourth place.
This was Costa’s first game since returning from his three match suspension. After missing out on the Spain squad, he was clearly keen to make an impression. Rueben Loftus-Cheek started, as Jose Mourinho had promised, while Branislav Ivanovic missed out through injury. Abdul Baba Rahman came in for him, with Cesar Azpilicueta shifted to the right flank. The biggest shock in the team selection was the omission of Eden Hazard, who had to watch this one from the bench.
Hazard could well have been a player who responded well to the return of Costa, after all, he did score in the Spaniard’s last league game. Making his much awaited return here, the intense forward made a huge difference to how Chelsea played, and added a threat up front that has been lacking for much of the season.
It took Costa over half an hour to truly make the difference, but he eventually did it in a straightforward fashion. The hosts took advantage of a mistake by the Villa defence, and Willian teed up the striker, who tapped home for his second league goal of the season.
After promising that Loftus-Cheek would start the game, many were excited to see the youngster getting a run in the team. Those fans were disappointed at half time, as the manager hauled off the midfielder, replacing him with Nemanja Matic. He may be a more defensive player, but he’s also in awful form.
Mourinho has blamed his side’s lack of luck quite a few times this term, but they got a much needed break in the second half. Diego Costa’s shot took a defection off Alan Hutton, which sent it past Brad Guzan. That got the Blues back to their manager’s favourite scoreline, and from there they closed up shop to make sure of the points.
After the game, Mourinho explained the reasoning behind dropping Hazard. “I left Hazard out because we have been conceding too many goals,” he said. “We needed more stability and effort to help make the team more solid. I like quality, but when you don’t have the ball you don’t have quality. And you don’t have control.
“It was a tactical decision I felt we had to make and I told the players that this was not the time to be selfish and think only of themselves and be selfish. This has to be a moment for the team and nothing else. When the confidence is a bit low as it has been the quality goes down also. This was not a brilliant performance today, but it was a solid one. We sought more stability and control and we got it.”
LCN Man of the Match: Diego Costa