Mourinho labels Branislav Ivanovic one of Chelsea's best-ever signings

Jose Mourinho hailed match-winner Branislav Ivanovic and claimed the Chelsea defender is one of the club's best ever signings.

The right-back smashed in the decisive goal at Aston Villa on Saturday to clinch a crucial 2-1 victory which sent the Blues seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Manchester City's 1-1 draw with Hull handed Mourinho's side the advantage in the race for the title.

Ivanovic arrived from Lokomotiv Moscow for 9.7-million-pounds in 2008 and, after his fifth goal in his last six starts against Villa, Mourinho believes he is one of Chelsea's top captures.

He said: "He came immediately after I left and after that he made a fantastic contribution for this club. He is a competitive animal. A big heart.

"What really matters more is what we as a club feel for him and people like John [Terry] and [Gary] Cahill, guys that without them -- you cannot do anything. A team is an artist like [Eden] Hazard, it is a defender like Branislav. The mix and combination of talent makes a team.

"Every striker in the world would be proud to score that magnificent goal, it is an amazing goal. When he scores that goal and it is three or four nil it is a different feeling. He is a great guy, what he is doing for us is unbelievable."

Mourinho and Villa boss Paul Lambert failed to shake hands at the end and, while the Stamford Bridge chief did not name him, he issued what could be taken as a veiled dig at his opposite number.

He said: "If they go down it is not because of the quality of their players for sure. I believe they are not going down. I wish that because this is a big club. An historical club. I wish they stay in the Premier League. I wish and I believe."

When asked if it was the manager's fault he said: "I am saying nothing. I am saying that's football. They have more than enough."

Jores Okore cancelled out Eden Hazard's early opener to end Villa's 11-hour wait for a goal but they have won just twice in their last 20 league games.

They go to Hull, who occupy the final relegation spot, on Tuesday just two points above the drop zone but Okore is relieved to have ended their goal drought.

"When you score goals you get a positive energy that you can use on the pitch," said the defender.

"So when you don't score it can become frustrating.

"It is really positive that we can now go out there and not have to talk about not scoring -- at least for the next couple of games if we don't score again.

"At least now we can forget about that and avoid any more frustration.

"That's the really nice thing, but most importantly we showed we can compete with Chelsea."