Azpilicueta 8/10, Pulisic 7/10 as Chelsea beat Villa, solidify their hold on fourth

Olley: goals crucial to Pulisic's Chelsea future (1:37)

James Olley explains why Christian Pulisic needs to find the back of the net more often for Chelsea. (1:37)

Of the four teams chasing Chelsea for a place in the top four, Wolverhampton Wanderers were the only ones to take all three points this weekend. Therefore, the Blues will see their 2-1 victory over Aston Villa as a massive result towards solidifying their top-four position.

They were so comfortable throughout the opening period but, surprisingly, found themselves 1-0 down at the break, after a goal from Kortney Hause in the 43rd minute. Douglas Luiz whipped in in a deep cross, which Chelsea failed to deal with adequately, allowing the Villa centre-back to prod home for his first ever Premier League goal.

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Frank Lampard's side had lost eight of the nine games in which they conceded first this term, but were able to rally here. Their equaliser came in the 60th minute, when substitute Christian Pulisic got on the end of Cesar Azpilicueta's brilliant ball into the box to score off the crossbar.

They then went ahead just two minutes later, the Spaniard picking up his second assist of the game, setting up Olivier Giroud, who got the ball in the back of the net via a deflection off Conor Hourihane.

The Blues went on to secure the victory that puts them five points above the chasing pack in the race for fourth.


Chelsea dominated the ball throughout the game, looking extremely confident against the relegation-strugglers. The enforced break didn't seemingly do much to impact their quality on the ball, which was highlighted by their delivery into the box. They also kept on going after falling behind and got the reward of all three points.


Despite all of those balls into good areas, there was nobody providing the finishing touches in the first half. It's criminal that they went into the break 1-0 down, having held 77% of possession -- even if they did make up for it in the second. Lampard will also be frustrated by the way in which the goal was conceded, as the defence should have done far better with the initial delivery and follow-up. They also looked vulnerable in general when defending set pieces.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- It's always good for a manager when their substitution pays off, and that is exactly what happened for Lampard, when Pulisic scored just five minutes after coming off the bench.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 5 -- Didn't have much to do and failed to cover himself in glory for the Villa goal, palming the ball into a dangerous position to allow Hause to score at the second chance of asking.

DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 -- Put in some superb crosses, including the absolute beauty that set up Pulisic for Chelsea's equaliser. He then went and got the assist as Chelsea edged ahead, just two minutes later. However, he could have been more alert for Villa's goal.

DF Andreas Christensen, 5 -- He completely switched off for Villa's goal, having not been tested throughout the majority of the first half. There is seemingly a spot up for grabs next to Antonio Rudiger, but this performance wouldn't indicate that he is ready to become an undisputed starter.

DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- Dealt with Keinan Davis' physical threat well. He almost gave Anwar El-Ghazi a chance early in the second half after messing up a pass, but atoned for his error by making sure he couldn't get near the goal.

DF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- Like his fellow Spaniard Azpilicueta, Alonso provided some great deliveries for the attackers to get a goal, though his deliveries weren't capitalised on.

MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 -- Came agonisingly close with a brilliant touch and strike from the edge of the box just before half-time. The Croatian looked convincing in his overall play before being replaced by Ross Barkley in the 55th minute.

MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- He may have had concerns about returning to football, but they didn't show in his performance. Energetic throughout and was booked for a foul on Jack Grealish in the 94th minute.

MF Mason Mount, 8 -- The academy graduate was Chelsea's bright spark on this day. He forced a good save from Orjan Nyland after 20 minutes and continued to pose a threat throughout. This eventually paid dividends, as his link-up play was an integral part in Chelsea's second.

FW Willian, 6 -- Made some direct runs and forced problems for the Villa defence, but the Brazilian didn't provide much of a finishing touch. Was replaced by Reece James in the 90th minute.

FW Olivier Giroud, 7 -- As Chelsea went longer without a goal, Giroud's frustration was clear to see. However, that all changed with one strike of the ball, with the Frenchman bagging Chelsea's eventual winner in the 62nd minute.

FW Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 4 -- Making his first league appearance in over a year, due to injury, and it showed. He had a good chance early on, but was wide of the mark with a header, and failed to make any real impact on the game. Was taken off in the 55th minute and replaced by Pulisic.


MF Ross Barkley, 5 -- Replaced Kovacic in the 55th minute and had some moments of quality, but was unable to break through the Villa defence.

MF Christian Pulisic, 7 -- Came off the bench to score the all-important equaliser within five minutes of being on the pitch. Looked lively in his general play.

FW Tammy Abraham, N/A -- Replaced Giroud late on, making a return to Villa Park after his fruitful loan spell there last season. Missed a half-chance.

DF Reece James, N/R -- On for the last few minutes and didn't have much time to make an impact.